I attended this meeting on Tuesday night. A few first-hand observations:
1) The meeting was poorly attended, with only about a dozen people (besides the commission itself). Aside from a few folks from the New Milford Rail Restoration Society (who spoke eloquently in support of the project), I didn't see a whole lot of public support (or public opposition, for that matter) for the expansion. Where were the rail fans? These people count numbers.
2) A fellow who identified himself as a VP of the Housatonic Railroad* spoke in support of expansion to New Milford, citing regional population expansion figures in support as evidence of need. He did express concerns that any new stations that were built need to be constructed so his freights can easily pass by, and that passing sidings need to be designed into the plan. The Hoosey seems very willing to make a deal, and when questioned by a couple of the commissioners, communicated that they were very ready and eager to get the project moving forward ASAP.
3) The head of the Danbury Parking authority, as well as couple other folks (including a MN conductor) spoke in favor of adding more mid-day service on the Danbury branch. Danbury is opening a new garage at Library Place which will free up space at Patriot for more daytime MN customers. The commissioners said they had heard this before, seemed very interested, and asked several questions about potential mid-day ridership.
4) The MN conductor spoke against electrifying the Danbury line, since he said the trains can’t handle the hilly terrain and would slide around in leaves and snow. He did request “engines like they use on Shore Line East”. The commission didn’t seem interested in engaging the electrification or engine issues at all.
5) After the meeting was “officially” over, a fellow from the DOT who was hanging out in the back of the room made a statement that the new centralized traffic control system was a “done deal” and installation would begin in Summer 2007.
We’ll see. A link to a follow-up story is http://www.newstimeslive.com/news/story ... ype=phrase
A link to today's editorial in the News-Times is http://www.newstimeslive.com/opinion/ed ... ype=phrase