U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, says that the long-discussed plan to reactivate the abandoned Maybrook rail line to carry passenger trains on a more direct route between Danbury and New York City is likely to become a reality with funding from the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The House of Representatives gave final legislative approval to the Infrastructure investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 5.
The notion of Metro-North reopening the Maybrook line has been discussed for more than a decade. It would connect Danbury to the Southeast train station in Westchester, allowing passengers from Danbury to travel along Metro-North’s Harlem Line through Putnam into Westchester and south to the city. The reverse route would open up the Danbury area to riders from New York. A $1 million study is due to be completed soon.
Blumenthal was at the Danbury train station on Nov. 10 to meet with local leaders including Danbury’s Mayor Joseph Cavo and Mayor-elect Dean Esposito as well as representatives from the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“The word most often used about this bill is it will be transformative, and there’s no better example of it than the line from Danbury to New York City,” Blumenthal said. “Obviously real estate is doing fine in this region but that line will explode the potential economic development for the whole Danbury region.”
The Maybrook line had been used for both passenger and freight service since the late 1800s. Passenger service ended in the 1920s, but freight traffic continued on the line in varying degrees until 1993.
Blumenthal said that Connecticut is expected to receive $6 billion in funding from the infrastructure act over the next five years.
“The traffic has come back to the roads going into New York; they’re clogged with commuters,” Blumenthal said. “Frequent train service is going to be literally transformative so I would put it at the top of the priorities for the state, not just Danbury.”
At present, Danbury riders need to travel south to Norwalk and Stamford before proceeding to Grand Central Station. During peak morning hours, the scheduled travel time reaches two hours and eight minutes. Some proponents of using the Maybook routing suggest doing so could cut an hour from the travel time.
Blumenthal noted that he lives in Stamford and that more people now commute into Stamford than commute from Stamford to New York City, and rail service into and out of Stamford has taken on new importance.
“Folks moving into jobs in Stamford may not live there, but they don’t want to buy a second car and they want to live in a place where they can commute by rail and the businesses want to give them that opportunity as well,” Blumenthal said. “So, the Danbury line, don’t just think of it as Danbury to Stamford or Danbury to New York. It has stops along the way that people can use. So, I think this rail service is going to be really again transformative not just for Danbury and the commute into New York but providing access by rail to so many other places.”