State plans $34M renovations for Darien Train Station

DARIEN — The state will hold a virtual public hearing this month on a large-scale Darien Train Station transportation project.

A notice was sent out this week, according to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who addressed the project and hearing at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

The purpose of the project is to address the “current structural deficiencies at the stations platforms and bring the rest of the station into a state of good repair.” The project is scheduled for winter of 2021.

The project will completely replace all platform sections with electric-heated fiber-reinforced polymer transit panels. The new platform will be designed in conformance with building, Americans with Disabilities Act and all applicable standards and codes.

Lighting, handrails, recycling centers and others areas will be evaluated and replaced or upgraded as needed. The elevators located on the north and south side of the station will be rehabilitated. The station’s existing grounding and bonding system will be replaced using the state Department of Transportation’s newly developed standard. In addition to the work on the platforms, the four catenary structures within the limits of the project will be demolished and replaced.

The $34 million project is expected to be paid with state and federal funds.

Darien Train Station is in the heart of downtown at a busy intersection at the corner of the Post Road/Route 1 and Tokeneke Road.

Stevenson said the information was “interesting news.” She said she’s asked Public Works Director Ed Gentile to find out how many train station parking spaces will be impacted or unusable during the work.

She said when Noroton Heights Train Station recently underwent construction, approximately 30 to 35 spaces were impacted. There is often a waiting list for Darien and Noroton Heights parking spaces.

“We need to know that,” she said.

Darien received a federal grant of $250,000 for a transit-access study in 2015 and the state Department of Transportation began a project to replace both platforms at the Noroton Heights station in March 2017. The work was completed at the end of November 2018, though some commuters expressed frustration with what they felt was slow progress at the time.

Jim Cameron, Darien resident and founder of the Commuter Action Group, said that “first, the work is necessary.”

“Commuters and CDOT have known that for years, watching the crumbling platforms. But we also remember it was only 13 years ago that CDOT did a massive renovation of the station waiting room — though I don’t think the platforms were fixed then. But the elevators were part of that project and they were clearly poorly designed and failed regularly,” said Cameron, who is a Hearst Connecticut Media transportation columnist.

Cameron added the project looks “really expensive” considering it is $34 million to “basically replace what’s already there (platforms and elevators) with some enhancements (heated platform, emergency generator).”

He said he’s hoping the upcoming public hearing explains why.

“The lesson here is deferred maintenance means increased expenses,” Cameron said.

He also pointed out the project will take two and half years.

“We know how long the same platform project took at Noroton Heights. It’s hard to do the work and keep the railroad running. So I hope commuters will be patient while the construction teams do all they can to accommodate the riders’ needs,” Cameron said.

The meeting will be live streamed via Microsoft Teams Live Event and YouTube Live at 7 p.m. Oct. 21. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation. Instructions on how to access the meeting and on how to provide comments or ask questions, can be found at the project webpage.

Stevenson said she expects more details on the project by next week.

Watch the Board of Selectmen meeting on Darien TV 79’s Vimeo channel.

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