Officials optimistic new station will eventually boost downtown

Officials optimistic new station will eventually boost downtown

Record-Journal


WALLINGFORD — Town officials are optimistic a new train station and rail line will benefit Wallingford, but they say it could take time.

“I’m hopeful, but my optimism is somewhat reserved,” Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said. “It might take some time before the idea does turn into an increase in downtown activity.”

The new train station on North Cherry Street, not far from downtown, is nearing completion and expected to open in October. A new high-platform station was constructed as part of the new rail line that will provide service from New Haven to Springfield beginning in May.

The station, Republican Councilor John LeTourneau said, is a big improvement over the previous one.

“It really, really is beautiful,” LeTorneau said after visiting it recently. “It took an area of town that wasn’t so nice and really cleaned it up.”

LeTourneau believes the station “is going to make a huge difference” for the lower downtown area. The hope is that the rail line will increase foot traffic, he said.

“I am a big proponent of the train,” said LeTourneau, who runs a shop in lower downtown. “I’ve seen it work on the shoreline with Shoreline East.”

Other officials had more tempered expectations.

“I think it might take a while because the state economy is so bad. But over the long term it will help,” Republican Councilor Chris Shortell said.

Tim Ryan, the town’s economic development specialist, said the station will allow residents to more easily travel to other locations and allowing people from out of town to more easily visit Wallingford.

“Will there be additional traffic from other communities?” Ryan said. “I think there will be some, but I don’t think it will be a groundswell.”

Ryan believes the new rail project has helped by getting “a lot of people to focus attention on the lower part of our town center.”

“It shook everyone to take a look around and say, ‘What can we do to improve our town center?’” Ryan said.

Town leaders have started several initiatives in past years to encourage downtown development, including an incentive housing program and a “very aggressive” tax abatement program, Ryan said.

The new train station will have a high platform that will allow passengers to board faster than they do at the current low-platform station.

“It looks like it looks it’s going to be a much more functional train station than the one we’ve had in town,” Cervoni said.

Councilors said they anticipate that the new train station could cause some parking problems for neighbors on North Cherry Street.

“I can’t believe it’s not going to have an impact on North Cherry Street, but I’m not so sure the rest of the neighborhoods will see an immediate impact,” Cervoni said.

LeTourneau said he plans to monitor the parking situation once the train service begins.

“If it becomes a problem, we’re going to have to take it look at it,” he said. “You don’t know, it’s a wait and see.”

mzabierek@record-journal.com 203-317-2279 Twitter: @MatthewZabierek


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