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November 08, 2015

Stamford RR Garage Saga Drags On

The nearly decade-long struggle to replace the crumbling Stamford railroad station parking garage has taken another bizarre turn:  the CDOT now wants to spend $1.5 million and take six months to repair the garage before they tear it down.
How did we get into this mess?  Let’s examine the time-line:

Garage construction - 1983
MAY 1983:    Construction begins on the Stamford Transportation Center, featuring a new train station and parking garage. But construction is halted when cracks are found in beams. Repairs are made and work continues.

AUGUST 2006:       Crumbing concrete, exposed and rusting rebar convince engineers the garage is near the end of its life.   CDOT decides it will be cheaper to demolish the old 727-space parking garage than to repair it… $35 million.

AUGUST 2008:       A hoped-for public-private partnership (PPP) to replace the old garage in its current location and add private office space falls through. 

JULY 2012:   The CDOT tries a PPP again, issuing an RFP (Request for Proposals) for replacement parking within a quarter mile of the station.  Developers are promised confidentiality.  There are no public hearings on any concepts, leaving commuters in the dust. After protests, Governor Malloy appoints a panel to oversee the CDOT process of selecting a developer.  The group meets secretly, never seeking public input nor ever issuing a report on its work.

JULY 1, 2013:         Developer John McClutchy and family donate $30,000 to the CT State Central Democratic Committee.  By February 2015, the McClutchy’s have donated $165,000 to that federal account, bypassing state laws prohibiting contractor contributions to candidates.

John McClutchy
JULY 11 2013:        The CDOT announces its choice of developers for the Stamford Garage, JHM Group of Companies (headed by John McClutchy), which proposes a 600,000 sq ft office / hotel complex on the site of the old garage while parking is moved a quarter mile away.  Negotiations on a final deal get underway.

NOVEMBER 2014:            Having been completely bypassed in the state’s decision making process about the garage project, the City of Stamford Zoning Board passes a new zoning ordinance giving it final approval over any projects near the train station.

MARCH 2015:         In response, the Governor introduces HB-6851, a bill to give the state control of all development within a half mile of any transit station.  The bill would create a quasi-governmental CT Transit Corridor Development Authority, all of its members appointed by the Governor, with the power of eminent domain.  The bill is eventually killed.

APRIL 2015:           Large chunks of concrete fall from the ceiling of the Stamford Garage prompting CDOT to close the facility for safety inspection, displacing 700+ daily parkers.
Spawling concrete, rusted rebar


JULY 2015:             The second anniversary of CDOT’s selection of JHM as developer of the garage passes, but there is still no signed contract.  The old garage remains closed into a third month with no word on repairs.

OCTOBER 2015:     CDOT announces it will spend $1.5 million and six months to repair part of the old garage, eventually re-opening 270 of its 727 spaces.


Those facts speak for themselves.  My only opinion:  if CDOT can so mismanage a small project like this, what’s going to happen when Governor Malloy gives them $100 billion to spend on his 30-year transportation plan?