NORWALK, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy spent some time in Norwalk on Monday afternoon, talking with city leaders and residents about the city’s infrastructure needs and focusing on the Walk Bridge and the East Norwalk Train Station.
The blustery cold winds forced the conversation inside the Station House restaurant at 232 East Ave., but the planned visit to the East Norwalk station still took place. Murphy (D-Conn.) met with Mayor Harry Rilling, state Sen. Bob Duff, and state Reps. Fred Wilms and Gail Lavielle, along with other officials and interested citizens inside the restaurant for a discussion of Norwalk’s infrastructure needs and possible future projects.
P. Ranjit Santiago was one of the concerned citizens in attendance. A resident of Norwalk for 42 years, Santiago said he lived near the Metro-North station in East Norwalk for a time so he understands the concerns residents have about the state of that train station.
As those in attendance gathered for the conversation, Murphy began by cautioning that he did not know what January would bring, but he said he’d like to be ready with ideas because President-Elect Donald Trump has said infrastructure will be a priority for his administration.
“We will work together when President Trump proposes things that are good for Connecticut, and I will fight him like hell when he proposes things that are bad for Connecticut,” Murphy said. “He’s mentioned infrastructure. I will pay close attention to the funding structure he proposes. I will meet him where he is and find a proposal that works. We have to be ready with projects.”
Murphy then asked Rilling to talk about projects that might be important for Norwalk.
“The Walk Bridge is the biggest project going right now,” Rilling said of the project to replace the bridge that takes the Metro-North train tracks over Norwalk Harbor. “We are watching the project closely to make sure it’s done in a proper way, minimizing the impact on citizens.”
Rilling mentioned that the platforms need to be lengthened at the East Norwalk station so commuters have an easier time getting on and off the trains. Parking also needs to be improved, he said. Gesturing to indicate an area between the restaurant and the tracks, Rilling said, "This piece of property would be ideal for development. We have a perfect DOT project right here."
Wilms said he used to commute from the East Norwalk station. After he gave examples of the problems for commuters with the shorter platforms, he said the other big issue was parking. "We need a lot more parking," he said. "Especially for East Norwalk."
"Train service is also an issue," Lavielle said. "The available shelter is inadequate. It's pretty brutal in this weather."
"Parking, longer platforms, shelter — what else?" Murphy asked. "Tell me about the bridge project."
"We will improve the East Avenue corridor, widen the street," Rilling said. "But a big part of it is the platform extension."
Santiago asked whether it would be possible to have a pedestrian bridge, as they do in many European stations. He also commented on the darkness at the station, especially for commuters who have to cross under the bridge to the other side of the tracks at night.
As the conversation touched on ideas such as bringing an old station back into service and improving the parking and safety for commuters, Murphy brought up the problem of funding and the need for revenue sourcing and the unpopularity of taxing.
The group trooped out into the cold for site visit. As everyone walked single file under the bridge, that illustrated the need for improvements to the current configuration.
Wrapping up his visit on the platform of the East Norwalk station, Murphy summed up the problems that commuters have to deal with at this and other stations throughout the state.
"We’re so cramped, both on the railroads and in the streets around the stations," he said. "We need faster trains, better parking. Bridges — having to walk under the tracks causes problems with local traffic. Also parking is too crowded at the stations."
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