As if the morning commute into New York couldn’t get any worse.
Attempts to solve a serious parking shortage in the Union Station garage have reached an impasse as a result of a disagreement between New Haven and the state Department of Transportation over the station’s operation.
The existing garage at the train station is not adequate enough to handle the volume of commuters every morning. When the Union Station garage fills up, commuters are directed to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum garage. From there, the city provides a complimentary shuttle to the train station.
William Kilpatrick, the executive director of the New Haven Parking Authority, said the current situation is problematic.
“We are turning away several hundred people on a daily basis,” Kilpatrick said. “They are being accommodated at the Coliseum garage, but it would be more convenient for them to have a second garage.”
The Connecticut Department of Transportation leases the operation of Union Station itself and the existing parking garage to the city. The city allocates the responsibility for maintaining the operation of the station and the garage to the New Haven Parking Authority.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the city receives approximately $55,000 annually from the operation.
The terms of the lease were laid out in 1984, and DeStefano said the plan anticipated the construction of another garage on a lot adjacent to the current one.
He said the state now wants to terminate the lease agreement, build a new garage and privatize the operations for the station, new garage and existing garage. He added that the state wants to terminate the lease without compensating the city for the lease money it will lose.
“They can condemn us out of our lease and we’ll go to court over it, or we can reach some sort of agreement,” DeStefano said.
City Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez said the lost revenues would be a blow to the Parking Authority’s budget.
“We very much want the state to build a garage,” Fernandez said. “But to lose those funds would severely hurt our Parking Authority.”
Harry Harris, the Department of Transportation’s public transportation chief, acknowledged that there was a parking problem at Union Station, but he said the state cannot afford to construct another garage.
“The state of Connecticut does not have the funding available to fund the construction of a second garage,” Harris said. “Therefore we went onto the street seeking private capital who would be willing to fund the entire design and construction of the new garage, plus operate it for a period of up to 25 years and to share with the DOT a portion of the eventual revenues.”
Harris said the city and Parking Authority declined requests to submit proposals of their own.
Fernandez said New Haven is not against the DOT privatizing operations at the station, but he said the city should be reimbursed for its losses.
“The state links a new garage to gaining control over the station and the other garage,” he said. “We don’t oppose handing them control, but we see it as something that would require compensation to the city.”
Kilpatrick said the current problems will only become worse if no action is taken.
“The problem becomes more complicated the longer we wait,” he said. “I think if there is a cooperative effort on behalf of the state of Connecticut, the city of New Haven and the Parking Authority, we should develop a way to resolve that problem.”