The cities and towns along the Naugatuck River historically supported a robust manufacturing economy, with dense compact urban cores and residential developments to house their workforces, and were supported by mass transit and municipal infrastructure. The Waterbury Branch Line (WBL) of the New Haven Main Line provides daily commuter rail service the region’s residents and connections to Bridgeport, Stamford and New York City. However, the WBL is single-tracked and currently operates without any communication signals. These conditions constrain operations and greatly limit service. Route 8 is the main travel facility. The combination of constrained rail services and accessibility afforded by an expressway perpetuates the reliance on the automobile as primary mode of transportation.
In the past, the corridor’s economy thrived because of its location along the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers. The construction of rail lines provided more convenient access to regional markets and were the dominant forms of transportation. The rail service provided intercity and inter-regional passenger, as well as freight connections to move goods and products. The region was also one of the earliest areas to develop trolley lines for localized travel. The trolley system also connected the region to New Haven.
The expansion of the road network and construction of the Route 8 expressway changed the character of the region. Manufacturing began to relocate to areas with less expensive operating costs and residents began to shift their travel to other communities for shopping and social activities. The expressway provided an efficient and convenient means to travel to other areas. As a result, the downtown areas declined and, today, they are under-populated, contain Brownfield site and have become less desirable places to live and work. The region was further devastated by severe flooding of Naugatuck River in August of 1955 from the unusual occurrence of two named hurricanes, Connie and Diane, passing within proximity of Connecticut within nine days. The combined impact of these storms was immense, as the damage was estimated to have exceeded 1.5 billion dollars (1955 dollars).
This study is intended to recapture the former vibrancy of the area and transform travel from one almost exclusively reliant on the private automobile to a more balanced transportation system that offers transit as viable, attractive and convenient alternative. The implementation of alternative transportation projects and enhanced transit services will be the catalyst to transform these centers back into vibrant and livable communities.