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January 4, 2024

Lamont rides the CT Rail, touts plan for further development along the Hartford line

Steve Laschever Gov. Ned Lamont took a ride on board the CTRail train line from Hartford Thursday.

Gov. Ned Lamont took a ride on board the CTRail train line from Hartford Thursday, gauging first-hand the impact of the state’s investment in transit-oriented development.

Along for the ride from the Capital City to Meriden were members of Lamont’s staff and officials from the state departments of transportation, housing and community and economic development.

He was joined by other state and local officials in Meriden where he announced a plan to revitalize a dormant state program to help municipalities fast-track transit-oriented development projects.

Based off the success of Hartford’s Capital Region Development Authority, the Municipal Redevelopment Authority (MRDA) is a quasi-public agency aimed at stimulating economic and transit-oriented development across the state.

It was established in 2019 but never funded, and Lamont is now looking to implement this incentive program by soon hiring an executive director and chair to lead it. 
Towns will be able to access funds by submitting a proposal establishing “housing growth zones,” which are downtown transit-oriented areas ripe for growth. Municipalities must demonstrate to the MRDA that these housing growth zones are likely to substantially increase housing production by establishing clear rules and zoning regulations that provide certainty to developers, state officials said. 

Housing is a main component of the state’s massive transit-oriented development initiative, which has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into building or rebuilding train stations in towns along the Hartford line while helping to build mixed-income housing and mixed-use developments nearby. 
The MRDA will also help municipalities streamline the zoning process for faster project approval, and partner with developers who want to build up vibrant downtown areas.

In Meriden, Mayor Kevin Scarpati touted the progress in his city, from the train station improvements to the redevelopment of the old mall site that was a parking lot 10 years ago but is now a pedestrian-friendly park next to more than 300 new apartments with another 90 in the works. 
It all goes toward making Meriden more accessible and more affordable, he said. 

Also, the city recently overhauled its zoning regulations to be more business- and development-friendly, he said.

He said it’s key to have the support and funding from the state to “make sure cities like Meriden can come alive.”

Lamont said when it comes to transit-oriented redevelopment, “Meriden got it right,” and he wants to continue to see more success stories like this in other towns, spurred in part by the MRDA.

Meanwhile, investment in the Hartford line continues, with new stations taking shape in Windsor Locks and Enfield, set to open in 2026 and 2027, respectively. DOT officials said 60 new rail cars have been ordered to modernize the line and make it faster, safer and more accessible to ride.

Since 2019, the line has seen more than 2.5 million riders. In the past two years, the Hartford line has set ridership records and exceeded pre-pandemic levels, DOT Bureau Chief Benjamin Limmer said.

Lamont said transit-oriented development continues to be a major priority as Connecticut gains population, increasing the need for more affordable, middle-class and workforce housing along with vibrant town centers connected through a modern transportation system.

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