Metro-North Waterbury branch rail line improvements underway

Real progress toward improving local commuter rail service is now underway in Derby, and the successful revitalization of Derby’s downtown depends upon good regional transportation options.

The State of Connecticut, as part of its Let’s GO CT! Transportation initiative is making some important investments in the Waterbury Branch Line (WBL) of Metro-North, which runs from Waterbury, through Derby, to Bridgeport.

The WBL currently is a single track rail system with no passing sidings, but not for long. A passing siding is a portion of track that allows one train to pull off to the side to let another pass. The first of four planned sidings is currently under construction in Derby, enabling more frequent and convenient rail service.

The WBL is considered “dark territory” because it has no communication signals along the line. The signalization deficiency, which likewise restricts service capacity, is being addressed as well.

“As we speak, the Connecticut Department of Transportation has started the design of a signalization system for the WBL,” said Mark Nielsen, assistant director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG). NVOCG oversees the region’s transportation networks. Nielsen further stated that “the State is committed to installing Positive Train Control along the WBL to ensure trains can operate safely.”

“We are excited to see these significant investments being made to our local rail line,” said Mayor Anita Dugatto. “They are a great complement to our downtown revitalization efforts.”

Why is the improvement of the WBL important to the revitalization of Derby’s downtown? Because the best opportunities for investment and sustainability rely on a safe, dependable, and convenient public transportation network.

Derby’s compact city center and accessibility to a variety of transportation options position it well for transit-oriented development (TOD). TOD is a development scenario that includes a mix of housing, office, retail and/or other amenities integrated into a walkable neighborhood. TOD neighborhoods are typically located within a half-mile of quality public transportation.

TOD communities are especially attractive to young professionals and “empty nesters.” Millennials, the generation of children born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, prefer living in urban environments with walkable/bikeable access to regional transportation, jobs, entertainment, and other lifestyle opportunities. Community members that are looking to downsize their responsibilities, while maintaining their active lifestyle, also appreciate the convenience of centrally located housing near mass transit and other amenities, allowing for continued mobility and independence.