WALLINGFORD — As part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line that could begin service by 2016, the state Department of Transportation needs to install a second track to accommodate up to 25 daily round trips.
Town Engineer John Thompson said the second track should be installed by 2015, but there are “a myriad of issues” with the installation, he told the Economic Development Commission this week, especially since Wallingford has seven rail crossings, the most of any town on the line. The biggest issue, he said, is how access to Toelles Road will be affected when the DOT installs the second track.
“Their plan is to close the road for the installation,” Thompson told the commission. “In my opinion, that’s completely unacceptable.”
On Tuesday, Thompson said DOT plans show that access to Toelles Road from Route 5 would need to be closed during the track installation. There are several businesses on Toelles Road that would be affected by the closure, including Nucor Steel, FedEx Ground and Ametek Specialty Metal Products, he said.
“This would have a devastating impact on business,” Thompson said.
While other rail crossings have nearby detours, there is no easy detour for Toelles Road.
“We can’t have these businesses have that long a detour,” Thompson said. Vehicles would have to be routed through residential neighborhoods, which isn’t ideal, he added.
John Bernick, manager of the DOT rail project, said the plans provided to the town are only 60 percent complete and still under review.
“The detour plans are not meant to indicate that the road would be closed 24/7,” Bernick said.
Thompson said he interpreted the plans as stating the road would need to be closed 24/7. But detours would only apply for limited time periods, mostly at night, Bernick said. The detours will be coordinated with the town and affected businesses on Toelles Road, he added.
“The department recognizes that there are high traffic volumes including heavy truck traffic that transit the Toelles Road crossings and that some of the businesses on Toelles Road operate during multiple shifts,” Bernick said. “The department and Amtrak will use other construction staging techniques similar to what was done for the cable installation project to minimize the need for any temporary detours.”
In August, communication lines were installed across all town rail crossings over a two-week span. Parker Street and North Plains Highway were the only roads completely closed. A single lane was kept open at the Quinnipiac Street, Hall Avenue and Pent Highway crossings. Work took place between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Cable installation at Toelles Road was completed at night, Thompson said.
It will cost $365 million to build the 62-mile rail line between New Haven and Springfield. The federal portion is about $191 million, and the state has committed about $175 million .