Residents voice concerns, ideas for train station study
DARIEN — As concepts regarding the future of Noroton Heights Train Station are being considered, residents want to make sure it carries the spirit and aesthetic of the town.
Thirty Darien residents and commuters attended an information meeting at the Mather Center Jan. 18 to give an input for a ongoing Western Council of Governments COG (WestCOG) study — backed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation — into the train station. They were divided into separate groups to discuss ideas about certain concepts.
Similar to an information meeting held in May of last year, the session welcomed a team of transportation consultants including Gregory Del Rio, of Norwalk-based NV5.
Del Rio’s presentation addressed parking, roadway improvements and infrastructure. The presentation included four different station area plans each with unique concepts such as an overpass for the station or relocating it east of its present location.
Parking had been a key concern back in May. The presentation considered the possible expansion of passenger drop-off areas and redistribution of permits or pay-per-day parking opportunities. The possible inclusion of charging stations for electric cars was mentioned though Del Rio noted that “nothing is set in stone.”
Darien residents alluded to aspects of downtown, such as lighting, vegetation and signage, that they would want incorporated into the design of the station. For Heights Road, residents suggested the road have more lighting and that crosswalks be considered in order to make it safer for commuters to cross.
The issue of out of sync stop lights was also addressed by the consultants who recommended changing the cycle lengths of stop lights on Noroton Avenue, West Avenue and Hollow Tree Ridge Road to improve traffic flow.
Town officials, including some selectmen, the director of public works and the director of planning and zoning, were also in attendance.
“I’d say we are two-thirds of the way done with the study,” Jeremy Ginsberg, Planning and Zoning director, said. “We’re hoping to finish the study by around the summer or fall time.”
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said that the goal of the study was to discuss “how we can make improvements to the Noroton Heights area train station for access of all kinds - pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular - that we all might be using.”
Following Del Rio’s presentation, attendees were split into different groups to discuss station concepts and designs, the surrounding roads and gateways.
A group focused on station design emphasized that it wanted to make sure that the entire platform were covered on both sides to protect against the weather and that an overpass in the middle of the platform would be something ideal.
“We had a very similar turnout to last time with about 30 to 35 people,” Ginsberg said. “Most of the people here are commuters and residents so there’s a good mix of people and there are interesting ideas. We’re getting a feel for the things that folks want and don’t want. We’re hoping to see what gets done in the recommendations and generate a consensus.”
Kristin Hadjstylianos, a representative from the WestCOG, was also present. “The project team will summarize the feedback provided by the community and begin refining the draft alternatives with the study’s Technical Committee. A preferred alternative will be developed to incorporate a number of improvements discussed during the public meetings, Hadjstylianos said.
The WestCOG representative added that the final report would include an implementation and financial plan. “The next community engagement event will be held in the spring to present a more detailed concept to the community for their input,” Hadjstylianos added.
Robert Young, a Darien resident, believed the event was “well organized though it would be great if more people came because it’s a large development in town.”
Another Darien resident opined on the event’s aftermath. “It’s always good when a planner asks for local input and the way they structured the event was great,” John Boulton said.