NEWINGTON â€“ Amtrakâ€™s Hartford Line service began June 16 with six stops between Springfield, Mass. and New Haven and more planned. The question is not if Newington wants a train stop, itâ€™s where.
â€śEvery town that has a passenger lane running through it would want a place where passengers can get on and off,â€ť Newington Town Planner Craig Minor said this week.
Over the last few years, the state Department of Transportation has been eyeing several potential locations for Newingtonâ€™s station. Originally DOT officials thought it feasible to construct it at Newington Junction, where an Amtrak stop was located many years ago. Further discussions with town staff led them to reconsider.
Now the preferred location is at 565 Cedar St., site of the former Sousa Heat Treating plant. Representatives from the DOT presented their proposal to Town Council in the spring. It will be shared with community members at a Public Information Meeting Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Lucy Robbins Welles Libraryâ€™s community room. Residents are encouraged to bring questions and comments.
If the general consensus is positive, councilors plan to approach the Town Plan & Zoning Commission about amending its regulations to create a new commercial zone allowing for desirable development around the station.
Minor called the completed projectâ€™s boost to the local economy â€śhuge.â€ť
â€śThe potential for economic development is far greater at this spot than at Newington Junction,â€ť he explained.
The Cedar St. Station would cost the state roughly $13 million more, but the DOT study found its advantages far outweigh building at Newington Junction. The junction is largely a residential neighborhood with little room for economic development and hilly topography. It is not close by any major trip generators. The preferred location is near CCSU and the siteâ€™s surrounding area offers 100-plus acres for potential long-term development.
DOT Commissioner James Redeker said the departmentâ€™s rail construction program could reserve $55 million to develop this station, if the town shows its support.
â€śThe next step is for the town to express its intent by taking a leadership role to move the station forward,â€ť said David Elder, with the office of strategic planning. â€śWe like to see an alignment between a townâ€™s economic development strategies and zoning regulations.â€ť
Although no formal timeline has been set, construction could commence as soon as 2020.
TPZ is currently reviewing an application for a 108-unit apartment complex at 550 Cedar St., directly across the road from the proposed site. Units would be leased to low- and moderate-income families, if affordable housing developer Dakota Partners receives town approvals.
Minor contends the stationâ€™s proximity to these apartments is convenient, though the two projects are unrelated.
â€śItâ€™s a total coincidence,â€ť he said. â€śThe DOT has been looking at this site for over a year now.â€ť
The Hartford Line train currently stops in Windsor, Windsor Locks, Hartford Berlin, Meriden and Wallingford. More stations are in the works, including one in West Hartford. The route provides direct access to local commuters, before heading to Springfield then points north to Canada.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go:
WHAT: Public information meeting on proposed Hartford Line train station at 565 Cedar St.
WHEN: Thursday, Oct 18 at 7 p.m.
WHERE: The Lucy Robbins Welles Library Community Room