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Fairfield Metro Center Set for Oct. 31 'Soft Opening'

State DOT to start service to new station in November or December, town officials say.

The Fairfield Metro Center is set for a “soft opening” on Oct. 31, announced at Monday’s RTM meeting — however the new train station will not be fully completed, nor will trains be stopping at it, until November or December, he said.

A joint project of the state Department of Transportation, the Town and local commercial real estate development firm Blackrock Realty, the Fairfield Metro Center, located at 21 Black Rock Turnpike, includes the new railroad station, about 1,440 parking spaces for rail commuters and about 930,000 square feet of commercial space which is being financed by Blackrock Realty.

In his update on the approximately $45 million project, Tetreau said construction of the parking lot and upgrades to the adjacent intersection will be completed by the end of next month. However he said the state DOT still has not set a firm date for when train service will begin at the new station, nor has it determined when it will start selling permits for the new commuter parking.

The only thing that could delay the “soft opening,” Tetreau said, is a request for an easement across the new parking lot by United Illuminating, so that it can lay underground cables in order to bring power transformers into the new facility. Tetreau said the utility has expressed its desire to have the transformers inside the facility itself, as opposed to off-site, which requires it to dig a trench and lay cables across the new parking lot. Tetreau said because the state will be the actual owner and operator of the parking lot, it must agree to UI’s request. He said so far state officials have not been receptive to the idea.

“Have you ever been caught between two agencies that are both used to having it their way?” Tetreau quipped during the meeting. “We’ve got UI saying it needs the easement… and the state right now is saying ‘no.’ So [the Town is] going to have to manage that agreement on behalf of both.”

“We firmly believe that [the state will agree to the easement] because it is in everybody’s best interest,” Tetreau said. “But it’s become a sticking point. UI says it won’t turn on the power to the new station until this easement is done. And for right now, the state doesn’t want to say ‘yes’ to the easement.”

Beyond the issue of the easement, Tetreau said the PCB contaminated soils that were excavated during construction will be trucked off the site by the end of this month. He said some of the less-contaminated soil (i.e. not with PCBs) removed during construction will be allowed to remain on site, however the Town will likely have some or all of it trucked away as well, because there is no room for storing it. Remediation and disposal of the contaminated soils is budgeted at about $2 million.

Other work completed as of Aug. 31 includes:

--800 feet of gas main has been installed and activated

--Electrical vaults and 1,250 feet of duct banks have been installed and accepted by UI

--Deck for new parking lot is completed and lot is ready for paving

--1,000 feet of water main has been installed

In addition a supplemental grant agreement with the State is being developed. It is anticipated that the state will be reimbursing the town $2 million to $3 million for the construction of the station’s roadway and parking lot. Tetreau said the state would be providing formal documentation on how much the Town will be reimbursed over the next several weeks. He said he hoped to have the documentation available for review before the next RTM meeting on October 24.

Although revenue from parking permits for the new commuter lot will go to the State (several town officials had previously expressed disappointment that the Town did not negotiate with the state to get the revenue in exchange for maintenance of the station), Fairfield residents will nonetheless benefit from the addition of about 1,440 new parking spaces. Tetreau said there is currently a proposal to set aside about 200 spaces for day parking — while the remaining 1,240 parking spaces will be designated for commuter parking. The additional spaces, he said, will help reduce the town’s substantial waiting list (of more than 1,500 residents) for parking permits by as much as two thirds.

The two-year project to bring a third train station to Fairfield has been fraught with challenges and delays — not the least of which has been the discovery and cleanup of contaminated soils. Members of the RTM and other town officials expressed this past June when they learned that the cost of the project had — and that the previous administration, under the leadership of former First Selectman Ken Flatto, who resigned mid-term in late April to , had “hidden” the cost overages until his sudden departure by simply not mentioning them — an accusation which .

Earlier this month the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and RTM approved $7.5 million in additional funding for the project in order to cover the budget overruns. That appropriation included, according to town officials, about $1 million “buffer” to help cover any additional unforeseen costs. Any unexpended funds for the project, plus any reimbursements from the state, will be returned to the Town.

The RTM to investigate the cost overruns.

According to the project's Facebook page, the new Center "will comprise of 7 buildings consisting of 5 mid-rise office buildings with more than 800,000 square feet of Class A office space, 32,000 square feet of retail space, a 180 room Hilton Hotel and if approved an 82 unit residential condominium."

It adds that a "Metro North ticket office and commuter waiting area will be integrated into the Concourse building."

The project is expected to create more than 2,700 jobs and generate more than $1.1 billion in revenues on the local, state and federal level over the next 20 years, according to an analysis performed by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis (CCEA).

The project has been registered with the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and, according to the Facebook site, qualifies for Gold level certification.

Andrew Graceffa September 28, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Exactly what is the point of the "soft opening" if no trains stop? Let me know when the first train is coming and I'll be there.
steve sheppard September 29, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Soft Opening? I guess it will be for the politicians to get their photos taken. Just give it six months or a year when there will be no seats for anyone getting on at the current Fairfield station and see how happy the commuters are.
Kathy September 29, 2011 at 03:30 PM
No trains=CLOSED. What about this is open? No stores, no trains, no parking? Trains are already overcrowded with no seats and dirty trains. What are they waiting for, someone to figure out the schedule, and print it for the trains to stop? Very disappointing project.
John Rodriguez September 29, 2011 at 03:51 PM
The point of a "Soft opening" is so Tetreau can say "hey, look at what I did" without actually doing anything! Is it a coincidence that the "soft opening" is a WEEK before election day, I think not... Ugh, I'm starting to feel like I'm living in Bridgeport
Stanley Simpleton September 29, 2011 at 05:51 PM
This is absolutely pointless. Is anyone else insulted by how stupid these politicians must think that we are to believe for a second that this has nothing to do with the election on November 2? I'm looking forward to seeing this plan backfire on the interim administration.
steve sheppard September 29, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Hoping the Press will be there and ask Saxl and Flatto why they gave away the parking revenue to the State, why they signed a secret deal to the detriment of the town, and helped drop our bond rating because of their action. I still don’t understand why Saxl has not been fired!
Matthew Hallock September 30, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Will there be bike parking? I went by twice and couldn't see any on the New York-bound side.
Fairfield Resident September 30, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Just lock your bike to a sign post, light pole or fence. There are plenty there.
Hugh Dolan October 01, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Unfortunately, there uis some misinformation here. The 933,000 sf space has NOT been financed by the developer ( BRR ), it has been financed by the theft from the taxpayers of Fairfield and Connecticut. It amazes me that these politicians still-- after all these months-- don't get it ! Besides, BRR isn't developing anything-- Mr Saxl and Mr. Flatto signed a deal, with the approval of the Board of Finance( which the Town Charter says has responsibility over all finances ) , including Mr. Tetreau and Mr. Bellitto, to let Black Rock Realty sit back and enjoy the rewards of the taxpayers of Fairfield ! Why should we give UI an easement-- and since when does the Parking lot belong to the State ? Why did Mr. Tetreau request another $ 7,5 million just two weeks ago if the parking lot belongs to the State of Ct? And wasn't TEN years long enough for UI to plan for the power lines? Or were they too busy buying up other profit-making companies with the revenues extracted from their state monopolies ? There's been enough comments on the " soft opening " I agree -- there's nothing open there but the taxpayers' wallets-- and the money is being sucked out faster than you can say" taxpayer rip-off ".
Hugh Dolan October 01, 2011 at 01:49 AM
Mr. Tetreau reported that the state said they have no more money to give us; yet , this weekend the Ct Post reported that the State Auditors " discovered " another " secret " account , this one run by the Norwalk and Stamford DOT Parking Garage Authority. The Auditors found a stash of $ 7.5 million in this secret slush fund, and recommended that " controls " be instituted to regulate it's use. I say-- go to Hartford, and have Mr. Malloy get it allocated to pay for the contaminated soil and the cost over-runs ! Our citizens didn't create this sink-hole-- Mr Flatto( a state employee now ) and the Finance Board , and the DOT created it. Let's claim that money ! The very least we should do is move all that contaminated soil back onto BRR property, and let them deal with it--It was not, and is not, our soil-- it was BRR's to begin with, only the lack of controls by Mr. Flatto, Saxl, and Hiller and the Finance Board allowed them to put it onto the backs of the taxpayers !

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