Though some are telling New Canaan not to worry, the threat that the state could cut back on Metro-North Railroad service to the town during off-peak hours on weekdays, and halt weekend service altogether, is hugely troubling, municipal officials said Tuesday.
Selectman Kit Devereaux said she’s concerned because “I think there is very little downside for the government to come through with this, for Connecticut to come through with this.”
“Because they can make their point while at the same time not having a large democratic constituency to upset,” Devereaux said during the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall.
She added: “I think if they cut away our weekend service and they cut back our off-peak service, it’s a nail in the coffin. It really needs to be stopped.”
She referred to a proposal from the Connecticut Department of Transportation from earlier this month.
When First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said that’s a good question to ask of New Canaan’s delegation to the Connecticut General Assembly—a forum that includes state legislators such as State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125th) and even state DOT Commissioner Jim Redeker is to be held 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall—Devereaux asked whether the first selectman was “being proactive in talking to legislators?”
Moynihan responded: “: I am in constant contact with our legislative representatives.”
When Devereaux asked “About this?” Moynihan answered yes.
Selectman Nick Williams, identifying himself as “the only elected commuter in this town,” said the threat of reduced service is just one railroad-related problem that New Canaan should take up.
“In my opinion, the biggest problem in this town with respect to commuters is not parking—and I think we have parking issues and I am supportive of solving them—I think it is making the trains run on time,” Williams said. “In this day and age, to have trains that are 10 minutes slower than they were 20 years ago is ridiculous. And whether that is the disaster that is in Hartford—and I think it’s arguably worst government in state history—we have got to do something.”
While New Canaan cannot afford to lose weekend service, Williams continued, “we also need to make the damn trains run on time and run faster and that, in my mind, is the biggest thing.”
“That is what is driving people to Darien and Greenwich and not New Canaan,” he said. “We have got to get trains going faster and whatever we need to do—and I think the only way we can do that is collectively in Fairfield County, banding together all of us.”
Moynihan said officials from the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, or ‘WestCOG,’ indicate that it is “very unlikely” that towns in this area can get relief locally given that Metro-North Railroad is behind on implementing “positive train control.” A system of train safety technology, positive train control was supposed to be installed on trains and railroad equipment 10 years ago following Congressional mandate, and originally had been required by the end of 2015. Even with a three-year extension to Dec. 31 of this year, Metro-North Railroad appears to be far behind, officials have said.
“This is not something that we can get local relief from,” Moynihan said. “It’s a federal mandate, across the country.”
Even so, Williams said, New Canaan can collectively with other county towns urge representatives to speed up the process.
“It’s not something that New Canaan, we as a board of selectmen, can change overnight,” he said. “It’s not going to happen. But collective pressure through our fed government, through our elected officials, will work. This is hurting– speed this up.”