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A Glance in the Review Mirror

The Hub looks back on some of the 2011's biggest transportation stories.

The Hub takes a look back at some of the top transportation stories of 2011.

Metro-North New Haven Line riders and Shore Line East riders are getting ready to dig a little deeper into their wallets. The New Year will bring a 15.25 percent hike over next seven years. And CTTransit bus riders will face a 12 percent increase over next three years.

Riders fumed and state lawmakers promised to make sure the money will be well spent, in a transportation lock-box. 

Ahh, that new car smell.

Metro North began introducing its new cars, with red seats and red and gold speckled floors last winter. Some riders deliberately missed trains leaving Grand Central Station just so they could ride on the new, clean cars. 

The March 8.9 earthquake in Japan slowed delivery of the spanking new cars due to stateside production glitches, because the Kawasaki steel production plant in Fukishima Prefecture sits near the area affected by radiation exposure.

The Kawasaki plant makes the M-8 underframe, which bolsters the cars’ bottom in case of collision. The first 38 M-8 cars were built in Japan.

People grew impatient, particularly because the heinous winter meant lots of Metro North delays and unheated cars.

Ice, wind and snow. Last winter wrought havoc on the New Haven Line. Riders waited in the cold on platforms, and inside cars when the head failed.

Hold the phone. Better yet, don’t even pick it up.

The General Assembly passed a bill last legislative session that increases fines for using a cell phone or texting while driving.

First time offenders face fines of $125, up from $100; a second offense increases from $150 to $250. Subsequent offenses mean fines increase from $200 to $400. Also, those caught texting while driving a commercial motor could be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle. Texting from these vehicles in an emergency is still allowed.

A $1.3 million Connecticut Department of Transportation study will decide the merits of a 37.5-mile Multi-Use Trail alongside the Merritt Parkway. The proposed trail would parallel the undeveloped highway right-of-way and incorporate the existing wooded buffer between the roadway and abutting properties. The trail would go from the New York State border in Greenwich to the Sikorsky Bridge and Housatonic River in Stratford.

The announcement attracted mixed reviews: Some readers thought if people want the trail so badly, they should weed whack their way through the underbrush. Others can’t wait to bike along.

This 27 mile-long trail will stretch from Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk and wind its way along the Norwalk River valley to Danbury. Work continues.

The City of Stamford will receive a $10.5 million federal TIGER grant for extensive renovations at the Stamford Transportation Center. The grant will mean more than 400 new M-8 rail cars will enter service by 2014. The TIGER grant will help fund part of a $39 million collaborative renovation project at the Stamford Transportation Center, in cooperation with the City of Stamford, the State of Connecticut and Building & Land Technology (developer of the nearby Harbor Point complex).

Local, state and federal politicians lauded the announcement as the latest in a series of improvements to Metro-North in Fairfield County. Residents aren’t holding their breath.

The $40.8 million station opened Dec. 5; the next phase of development is about to begin. DOT is already demanding more parking spaces. The area will eventually include several additional buildings: a concourse for commuters and visitors, complete with 200,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space; three to five full-service restaurants; a bank; coffee shop; and newsstand, a 180-room Hilton hotel and a 190-unit residential apartment complex.

While some residents fumed over cost over-runs, many more expressed thanks for the new station, hoping it will mitigate overcrowding at the current station.

Ferries

When the Chester-Hadlyme and Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferries stopped running on Aug. 25 due to budget cuts the news caused a certain amount of nostalgia among people who just liked the idea of the ferries, even if they never rode one.

I-95

The State Bond Commission approved $85.65 million for the construction of two additional traffic lanes between Exits 14 and 15 - i.e. Route 7 and Route 1 - on Interstate 95.

The funds will also support related improvements on U.S. Route 1. Work should finish in the fall of 2012. 

About this column: Metro-North, Merritt Parkway, I-95 and all other things transportation in the area

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