Walker Strong / ctnewsjunkie
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary and other elected officials lobby for more rail funding (Walker Strong / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT – Lawmakers from the Naugatuck Valley argued Monday for more state funding for the Waterbury branch line of the Metro-North Railroad.

The economic fate of the area is somewhat dependent on increasing commuter traffic along the line.

The state is already in the process of an approved $90-million project to install signalization, positive train control, and sidings on the pre-existing single branch line between Waterbury to Bridgeport. The work on this leg of the project is expected to be completed within a year.

“This line is working in the dark ages,” Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, said.  “Frustrations in planning a commute, to get to work or an appointment, and people cannot depend on reliable service.”

Waterbury officials and lawmakers estimate the rail line will need an additional eight locomotives and 24 rail cars in order to meet the line’s long term service needs. “We need modern, clean, efficient rail and locomotive cars that can bring our people back and forth,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, said.

Naugatuck Mayor Pete Hess said an increase in the number and reliability of train carriages would lead to a ‘gold rush’ of development opportunities for towns along the Valley.

“In Naugatuck Valley, within one-and-a-half miles of every train station, we have 275 acres of land just waiting to be developed,” Hess said.

But Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti declined to commit to additional funding. He told the Transportation Committee Monday that he’s aware of the sentiment from Naugatuck Valley officials.

O’Leary explained that without more trains commuters fear missing one. He said you have to wait two hours or more for the next train if you miss one.