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CT Rail Commuter Council to Address Divisive Garage Proposal

The Commuter Council meets in the office of the South Western Region Planning Agency, SWRPA, in Stamford Government Center at 7 p.m. tonight.

 

The state Department of Transportation’s method of obtaining public comments on designing a new parking structure for Stamford’s train station is murky, says James Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. Three vendors have submitted proposals for the structure, but for competitive reasons, he said, they can’t be made public.

“It’s a public-private contract, and the proposers do not want proposals being seen by competitors,” he said. “So this entire process of reviewing these proposals is being done in secret.”

A five-member citizen task force appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to receive public comments on the project held a hearing in Government Center Monday night, but it was sparsely attended, Cameron said, probably because it began at 6:30 p.m. and because the Transportation Department waited until last Friday afternoon to announce it.

What is known, Cameron said, is that the state wants to replace the existing structure, which is adjacent to the station and has 727 parking spots, with a structure having 1,000 spots and some combination of retail locations and residential units.

The idea most contested by commuters who use the existing structure, Cameron said, is the possibility of building its replacement one-quarter mile away from the station.

“That’s the real gist of what the (commuter) council’s been fighting for,” Cameron said. “If you tear (the existing structure) down, replace it where it is, not a quarter-mile away.”

Task force members hope to have a review of the technical aspects of the project completed by mid-January. After that, the panel will look at the financial feasibility of each proposal.

The existing structure sits on state-owned land and, bottom line, Cameron said, “ConnDOT is going to do what it wants to do.”

The garage’s adjacency to the station makes it a very valuable piece of property, Cameron said.

The problem with something like a 1 million-square-foot building, Cameron said, is that by developer’s own estimate, a building that size would require a parking structure for 2,085 cars, “which is triple the size of the existing parking lot.”

“You’re proposing a building so grand, so large that it’s not only going to kick commuters out of their parking to make them walk a quarter mile, but you’re going to have a parking garage three times as big just to support the building up,” Cameron said.

Discussion about the garage will continue Wednesday night when the Commuter Council meets in the office of the South Western Region Planning Agency, SWRPA, in Government Center Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

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