More free parking, ADA compliancy, access to both sides of the track, and easier
access to a bar/restaurant are some of the new features travelers can enjoy at the newest train station along the Connecticut shoreline in Westbrook which came at a cost of $14.4 million.
Old Saybrook Station
The new Westbrook station has 200 parking spaces.
According to OldSaybrookNow.com, the next closest train station in Old Saybrook has 40 Amtrak spaces and 125 Shore Line East spaces but commuters are charged $5 for other parking spaces in the lot with threats, from the owners of Saybrook Junction, that it could go up to $10. Those who don’t pay the fee, risk a $150 fine.
Some folks park along North Main Street to avoid the charge and the DOT has plans to build another 200 new parking spaces.
During recent construction of the Westbrook train station, commuters had limited parking and some were forced to park at the nearby Clinton or Old Saybrook stations.
The north side of the tracks has approximately 20 parking spaces, closest to Highliner, Westbrook’s original passenger and freight depot built in 1852, which now serves as a bar, restaurant, and live music venue.
According to Flickr, the business sign features a picture of an engine of a Highliner railcar.
Folks can walk a pedestrian bridge with elevators to access the other side of the track where there is an additional 180 spaces.
The station is fully Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliant and has canopy-covered, high platforms, which are the length of four rail cars, on both sides. The station has a commuter drop-off and bus pick-up area and a full audio and video messaging system.
The train station did not come without delays. The Harbor News reported that a large concrete mass buried underground on the south side of the tracks had to be removed. Other problems included an unexpected location for buried utilities on the north side of the tracks. The new station broke ground on Jan. 6, 2012.
The station comes as the result of a once-secretive controversial land swap, allowing the state to receive the town’s former garage while the town received the state’s road maintenance site on Route 145 for a new town garage. A committee made up of town and state officials met for months regarding the proposal and refused to release records until releasing them prior to a Freedom of Information Act hearing.
Previous Train Stations
While the first modern Westbrook station opened on May 29, 1990, the small low-level platform and parking lot were on the north side of the tracks with a crossing allowing passengers to board trains on the southern track. When Acela Express began, a safety precaution prohibited passengers from crossing the tracks. A new platform and parking lot were built across the tracks so trains could service commuters on the southern tracks. Those opened on January 15, 2001.
Town and State Celebrate
While the Hartford Courant explained that the station opened “without fanfare”, it was quite a monumental task since it is the last station along the Shoreline East route to receive high level platforms and more parking.
A recent press conference featured several officials including Sen. Art Linares, Rep. Tom Vicino, Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop, and others.
They cut a ribbon for the station, which is located at 101 Norris Avenue, just off Interstate 95 exit 65, adjacent to the former station.
Linares thanked former Sen. Eileen Daily and former Rep. Jim Crawford for helping to move the project forward.
Bishop explained the station “will promote necessary regional transportation for the shoreline and enhance all of the resources and attractions that Westbrook has to offer. It helps us to realize our full potential as a community.”
Redeker explained, “We worked closely with Westbrook and the state legislature to secure this site for development as well as address other transportation needs here in Southeastern Connecticut. This new station will serve a growing Shore Line East ridership and provide the convenience and amenities that those customers deserve.”
Shore Line East rail service is operated by Amtrak under contract with the DOT.
“The new Westbrook station exemplifies Amtrak’s ongoing partnership with Connecticut DOT and the Shore Line service. As a critical engine of economic growth, Amtrak continues to support the expansion of commuter service along the Northeast Corridor, and is pleased to facilitate the connectivity of another community to both commuter and inner-city rail service in Connecticut,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak vice president of Northeast Corridor infrastructure and investment development.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy explained “Since my first year in office, public transportation has been and remains a top priority. It is important at the local commuter level, of course, but it is also vital for Connecticut to be competitive and continue to grow jobs. The Westbrook station builds on other recent investments in Shore Line East - most notably the additional new parking lot at the Branford station and other track infrastructure improvements.”