The town’s highest elected official said this week that, facing the threat of several reduced rail service on the branch line here, he plans to lay out New Canaan’s case for head of the state Department of Transportation.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan during a Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday said he will write a letter thanking DOT Commissioner James Redeker for coming to New Canaan for a forum last week, and explaining “why the loss of off-peak trains would be devastating to New Canaan’s economy and our commuters and our real estate values.”
“The impact could be very serious on New Canaan,” he said during the board’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall.
Though some of New Canaan’s delegation to the state legislature have called the possibility of reduced service “an idle threat” from Hartford, what the town heard from Redeker during the Jan. 24 forum “was serious because he could save $7 million by eliminating that service on that branch line,” Moyhihan said.
The comments came at the prompting of Selectman Kit Devereaux, who asked Moynihan just what he was doing to advocate on New Canaan’s behalf.
“Aside from the letter, I think if you would call it would be great,” Devereaux said. “You have very persuasive ways.”
Moynihan responded: “We are going to work on this, believe me.”
The DOT on Tuesday announced a series of public hearings on the proposed service cuts, as well as possible increases in rates such as for rail and bus fares. The nearest one to New Canaan will be held 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27 in the auditorium on the first floor of the main building at the UConn Stamford Campus.
Local businesses and organizations such as The Glass House that rely on the branch line to bring in customers have spelled out just how negatively impacted they would be by the service reductions. Business leaders also have noted that many New Canaan businesses such as restaurants rely on the train to bring in workers from outside the town.
Redeker during last week’s forum described the proposed cuts to rail service on the New Canaan branch line as a difficult solution to a serious money problem. The state can save money by cutting the number of trains on branch lines, Redeker said, because the state subsidizes branch service more than it does on the main New Haven Line: $4.42 per trip on the New Canaan Branch, $17.04 on the Danbury Branch, and $24.46 on the Waterbury Branch. The subsidy per ride is $49.52 on Shore Line East (east of New Haven).
Yet, as Moynihan noted, the subsidy on the New Haven Line is $3.25 per trip.
“The fact that New Canaan is just $4 compared to $3 is persuasive,” Moynihan said.
Even so, as Moynihan also noted, the DOT commissioner told those gathered at last week’s forum that service may not be curtailed on one branch line while discriminating against others, “which was disturbing.”
Moynihan said “there has been talk of doing a petition” to fight against the proposed service reductions. Selectman Nick Williams said it can’t hurt for residents of New Canaan to write individual letters to the state.
“Whatever we do has to be done collectively, throughout the branch,” he said.