Shore Line East train service could leave customers in a lurch

GUILFORD --  The brakes may soon be applied to Shore Line East rail service, which could have drastic effects on the communities these trains serve.

The State Department of Transportation, which operates Shore Line East, projects a $60 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year in its transit and rail accounts. To that end, the CT DOT is proposing to eliminate weekday, off-peak, train service to and from the nine SLE stations and canceling any weekend trains.

"That would be horrifying," said Daniel Spielman of Guilford.

Especially true for anyone who needs transportation.

"Well, for me, I don’t really drive so I need to take a train every day to go to work," said May Cabahug of Guilford.

"Every single day, almost 2,000 people take these trains," noted State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford).

A bipartisan gathering of state lawmakers at Guilford‘s train station Wednesday morning said many Shore Line East riders rely on train service both on weekends and off-peak.

"Professors, students, security guards, police officers, firefighters," said Scanlon, as he described many constituents, who have reached out to him, urging pressure on the CT DOT.

One daily rider on SLE said training makes him feel like he is part of his community.

"There’s a group of people, who I see every day, and we are in it together in a way that you just aren’t when you are in your car," said Guilford resident Andrew Benner.

The CT DOT has proposed Increasing fares, over the next three years, by over 21 percent, in addition to drastically reducing service.

Guilford's Daniel Spielman did not mince words in describing what would happen if this plan did come to fruition.

"I take the Shore Line East to work every day and I moved here to Guilford 10 years ago under the assumption I could do that. If these service were substantially reduced, I would move out of Guilford," Spielman said.

This proposal comes just a year after shoreline legislators secured $250,000 of state funding to explore transit oriented development along Shore Line East, including in Branford.

Rep. Scanlon, whose district includes Branford, pointed out that right across the street from the brand new train station "there you have a booming Stony Creek Brewery. You have housing going in there. A hotel is coming in there."

Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna noted that nearly 200 luxury apartments were built next to that community's new train station and were quickly occupied. He says businesses on Main Street also count on reliable train service.

Shore Line East trains stop in New Haven, at Union and State Street stations, Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook and New London.