NORWALK, Conn. – Developers of major retail and housing projects along West Avenue in Norwalk are seeking federal money to create a trolley system that would connect the city and make moving around much easier for residents, workers and visitors alike.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy hosted a round-table discussion Wednesday with representatives of the city, the Norwalk Transit District, Belpointe Capital, which is developing the Waypointe project, and General Growth Properties, which is developing the 95/7 mall . They discussed the developers’ application for a $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, which would be used to support the building of pedestrian-friendly and public transportation projects.
The TIGER grant would make up half of the $28.6 million project, which would include trolleys that would run along West Avenue and connect the new housing and retail developments with South Norwalk and the Wall Street area. The trolleys would run every five to ten minutes and include multiple stops along the 2-mile route. The money would also be used to fund pedestrian-friendly improvements, bike lanes, and bike-sharing systems along the corridor.
Doug Adams of General Growth Properties said the trolley system is vital to connecting the city and making transportation easier for residents, people who work in Norwalk, and people who come to visit. In addition to the new jobs created by the building of the mall, there will be more visitors to the city, he said. Those visitors will be more inclined to take advantage of other amenities Norwalk has to offer, such as South Norwalk or the Maritime Aquarium, if they could get around easily.
“We really like this proposal. It creates what we see as a true downtown that’s connected by the transportation infrastructure,” he said.
The developers said that if the trolley system and other transportation upgrades were not approved, it would require 1.6 million square feet and $200 million to create ample parking for the new mall and housing units.
Murphy said he was in favor of the project, but that Connecticut has received a lot of money in TIGER grants in the past few years. He said it was important for the developers to get Gov. Dannel Malloy to list this is a priority project to give it a better chance of getting funding.
“This is a project that deserves to be funded, and we’re kind of getting to the point where it has to be funded,” Murphy said. “This is exactly the kind of development we should be encouraging and what the federal government should be encouraging.”
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