I see the station building is finally going up on Railroad Avenue (how fitting) and Sawmill Road for our city’s new train station. How exciting! I’ve been wondering what is going on with the train station and when it will be open for business. So I called West Haven Train Station Committee Chairman Michael Mercuriano to see what I could find out. I also called our city’s public information office for an update, and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Mr. Mercuriano has been working to push this project forward for more than a decade. He had an enormous amount of history to share with me. But in speaking with him, the thing I find most curious about the project is the fact that our train station originally had a 1,200 space parking garage to go along with it, and now it only has a surface parking lot with 660 spaces. The number of spaces has been cut in half. Huh? What happened?
I have the occasion to take the train into the Big Apple every so often. Trying to find parking in either Milford or New Haven is horrible depending on day of the week and time – and the New Haven station has a large parking garage. It’s a crap shoot because there are more commuters than there are parking spaces at those two stations. It is a well-known problem.
So why in the world would West Haven agree to forgo the parking garage? Mayor Picard has not championed this train station even though it has the potential to give a shot in the arm to our city’s weak economic development. He did not fight for the garage, even though the West Haven Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter in April 2010 to Jody Rell, the governor at the time, “beseeching” her to “do everything in your power to ensure that the Parking Garage becomes a reality for our citizens.” All the businesses in West Haven want the parking garage yet Mayor Picard has done nothing to help make that happen. Hmmm, why is that?
One thought I had would be that the mayor has a developer friend who could benefit by putting up a garage as part of the Armstrong project, across the street from the train station. There are hush hush plans in the works for that site. I tried to find out what was going on there from Michael Walsh, West Haven’s Public Information Officer, but he would only tell me that there are “active plans. . . details are forthcoming.” If there are active plans for the Armstrong site, I believe that the residents of West Haven have a right to know what they are.
Another potential wrinkle in the success of West Haven’s train station is the news that the way has been cleared to fund a train station in Orange, potentially at the Dichello Distributors site. That’s only just about a mile from the West Haven station. Luckily for West Haven the Orange station is still a few years away because there are still a number of hurdles that need to be cleared for it to move forward.
Originally the West Haven Train Station was slated for completion in the winter of 2013. The good news is that the train station is way ahead of schedule. While I was misinformed by Mr. Walsh that is was “on track to open in 2013″ and to check with the Department of Transportation for details, I have it on very good authority that the station will be open for business in August 2012. I can’t wait to finally be able to take the train into New York City from my own city. I only hope I can find a parking space.