John Kelly had a simple reaction to news that Gov. Dannel Malloy might cut service on Metro-North Railroad's Danbury branch in an effort to balance the state budget. "One word: Loser," Kelly said before heading down the stairs at the South Norwalk train station Tuesday night.
Juliet Manalan, Malloy's press secretary, said closing the Danbury branch is part of a long list of options given to the governor by the Office of Policy and Management. "It's not a foregone conclusion. That would be something that the governor and the legislature talk about," Manalan said. "Not everything on the list would happen."
Malloy has a May 31 deadline to present a plan that will achieve $2 billion in budget adjustments over two years. On Tuesday, he announced the layoff of 4,742 state workers. Closing the Danbury branch is part of Plan B. "The governor is hoping not to have to go down the road of Plan B," Manalan said. "The unions are still talking with the governor about concessions, but the governor is preparing in case there is not an outcome there that is workable."
Cutting train service is included in more than $545 million in potential budget cuts proposed Tuesday. The cuts could include eliminating some branch rail services to save about $22 million, including the possible elimination of train service from Danbury to South Norwalk.
Closing the train branch would draw a strong reaction in Norwalk, if Kelly is an indication. The commuter returned 10 minutes later to find out more about the plan. "I've been thinking about it," he said, angrily. "I hope he comes and sits on the traffic on Route 7."
Kelly said traffic on Route 7 in the morning is often backed up to the Merritt Parkway and said taking away train service in the face of increased gas prices doesn't make sense. It would also take away an option for avoiding snowy roads in the winter. "If we get 3 inches of snow here then they get 8 inches of snow there," he said.
Although some commuters are unhappy with the infrequency of service, trains on the Danbury branch are well used, he said. "It's usually pretty packed," Kelly said. "It's not like it's one-third full."
He hoped for better. "I'm very disappointed in the governor," Kelly said. "I thought he would represent us better in this neck of the woods, seeing as he's from Stamford."
Do you use the Danbury branch? What will it mean to you if the governor shuts it down?
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.