Posted on March 25, 2021
WATERBURY – The co-chairs of Connecticut’s Waterbury Rail Line (WRL) Caucus – State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury, Middlebury, and Naugatuck), and State Representatives Rosa C. Rebimbas (R-Naugatuck) and Geraldo Reyes (D-Waterbury) – joined Governor Lamont at the Waterbury Train Station to pledge ongoing, bipartisan support for investment in the line, citing its crucial role in the region’s economic development. Also present at yesterday’s press event were Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, CT Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes, area legislators and fellow members of the WRL Caucus.
In a joint statement, the co-chairs declared their commitment to securing funding and overseeing improvements to the Valley’s primary means of public transportation:
“An investment in the Waterbury Line is an investment in Connecticut’s economic future. There is endless potential in the Naugatuck Valley. Commerce, business growth and expansion require reliable transportation infrastructure. Local companies, commuters, and college students all depend on the line, and with this crucial funding to support infrastructure and service enhancements, we can breathe new life into the regional economy following a year that has been especially challenging on so many levels. The towns along the Waterbury Branch Line can play a vital role in our state’s recovery from the pandemic. These improvements give local businesses, nonprofits, and colleges and universities a chance. We owe it to them, their employees, our young scholars, and to the thousands of residents who will make good use of the line. We thank Governor Lamont, Lt. Governor Bysiewicz, Commissioners Giulietti and Dykes, Mayors Neil O’Leary and Pete Hess, the chairs and ranking members of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, our fellow WRL Caucus members, and so many others who have shown support for this initiative. This is truly a bipartisan mission to revitalize commerce, education, and tourism in the valley.”
Last month, the caucus held a virtual meeting with CT DOT representatives to discuss WRL issues and a path forward to making the necessary improvements. Issues include limited service, train speed, aging infrastructure, the need for new locomotives and railcars, and lack of station amenities, as well as, a phrase-in of extended service to Torrington. Despite a drop in statewide ridership during the pandemic, area legislators noted that the Waterbury Branch Line decreased less than the other branch lines demonstrating the demand for WBL service.
Today, it was also announced that the legislature’s Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation approved $1,227,689 for the state’s share of a proposed capital improvement program for the WBL to increase train capacity and service, and to perform various enhancements. While the allocation is subject to approval by the full Appropriations Committee, this is a major first step for the funding and legislators are committed to its passage.