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Metro North Taps Advocate for Waterbury Branch

Metro North Taps Advocate for Waterbury Branch
Attention finally coming to "neglected" line?

Commuters angry at what they call substandard service on the Waterbury branch of Metro-North Railroad scored a victory Thursday with the announcement that the line will have its own advocate.

Mike Donnarumma, who was appointed by Metro-North as district superintendent on the New Haven Line, will be responsible for paying particular attention to the Waterbury branch line, officials said.

Donnarumma said his goal is "to provide the best service possible to the Waterbury branch and to be a go-between to the customers and the railroad."

He worked at the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce and Connecticut Department of Transportation before joining Metro-North in 2007.

The announcement was cheered by a commuter and an activist.

"I think this is all a step in the right direction," said Roger Cirella, a paralegal who commutes between his home in Ansonia and East Norwalk.

Jim Cameron, a commuter advocate who has criticized Metro-North and the Department of Transportation, praised the appointment of an advocate for the Waterbury line.

"Any attention that can be paid to this neglected line is going to be a welcome improvement," he said.

However, both Cirella and Cameron said they believe election-year politics figured in the appointment of an advocate. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is seeking a second term and state legislators also will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"It's an election year," Cameron said. "What can I say?"

Malloy acknowledged complaints by riders who are angry at the frequent use of buses to substitute for out-of-service trains.

"Commuters on the Waterbury line have expressed their frustration, and for good reason," the governor said. "The state of this line is quite frankly unacceptable."

Major improvements to the line, including a new signal system, have begun.

Commuter trips on the Waterbury line have more than doubled, from 190,000 a year 10 years ago to about 400,000 now.