Metro-North Railroad is the United States’ third-largest commuter rail agency in ridership, with almost 300,000 daily trips, providing service from New York City to suburban New York State and Connecticut counties. Metro-North’s Connecticut service, along the New Haven Line, includes the main line, from New York to New Haven, as well as three branches, to New Canaan, Danbury, and Waterbury. Metro-North is already considering upgrades (including electrification) and an expansion to its Danbury route.
But the Hartford Courant reports today that the State Department of Transportation is also considering upgrades to the New Canaan and Waterbury branches. The Waterbury Branch, which was close to abandonment just a decade ago, has seen some remarkable increases in ridership recently, though its daily rider count falls somewhere in the 200-300 person range, nothing compared to the more than 100,000 the New Haven Line carries every day as a whole. Nor can the state fund more trains along the route: because it is entirely single-tracked and lacks signals, only one train can use the 29-mile route at a time, significantly slowing operations. The 8-mile New Canaan Branch, with about 3,000 daily riders, is far more heavily used, but it too has been left in disrepair for years and needs upgrades.
The state’s planning process will take up to three years to consider all possible alternatives, which could include expanding service from the existing Waterbury terminus to Berlin and even Hartford. We’re almost always in favor of expanding and integrating the nation’s intercity rail networks, so this seems like a good project to us.