July 18--BETHEL -- A $750,000 state grant will pave the way for an expanded parking lot at the local train station.
The money was released recently by the State Bond Commission and will be used to design an expanded parking lot at the station, according to state Department of Transportation officials.
The expanded parking lot also fits with the town's proposal to create a transit-oriented district surrounding the station, local officials said.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the department, said the expansion would add approximately 130 spaces to the parking lot -- for a total of more than 300 spaces -- on an adjoining property already owned by the state.
The state purchased the 5-acre parcel in 1990 for $1.3 million, according to Town Clerk Lisa Berg.
She added that the town issues about 250 parking permits annually for the train station, and there are nearly 60 residents on a waiting list for the permits.
State Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, who said he requested the money several years ago, said the funding shows the state's commitment to mass transit.
"I am keenly aware of the need to improve the train station facility and parking in downtown Bethel," said Scribner, a ranking member of the Legislature's Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee's transportation working group.
He added that the Legislature approved $2 million for the project in past years, and that the remaining $1.25 million will be available to pay for construction of the expanded parking lot.
Former state Rep. Jason Bartlett, D-Bethel, sent a letter to transportation officials in early 2008, asking them to look at the need for additional parking at the station.
Bartlett said Wednesday that he's pleased the project is finally coming to fruition.
"Transportation is critical in terms of growing our economy and having the right infrastructure to support our residents," Bartlett said.
First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said the expanded parking is not only needed, but it fits in with the town's plan to develop a transit-oriented development (TOD) district surrounding the station.
The Board of Selectmen, he said, would likely consider at its next meeting applying for a state grant earmarked for transit districts that could provide a minimum of $250,000 for planning and implementation of the proposal.
"I know there are a lot of misconceptions out there about transit-oriented development districts, but my plans are to move forward with this as quickly as possible and educate the people about what a great benefit this would be to the town," he said.
Bethel planning official Steve Palmer said the TOD is essentially an extension of Bethel's downtown and would allow residential and retail uses on industrial land that surrounds the station.
"The TOD is a strategy to enhance, improve and sustain the downtown area into the future," he said, noting that additional residential units in the downtown geared toward young professionals would benefit downtown businesses.
Contact Dirk Perrefort
at firstname.lastname@example.org 203-731-3358.
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