Trains could be taking passengers from Danbury north through New Milford to the Massachusetts border four years from now.

That is, if Housatonic Railroad officials have their way.

"Our goal is to have the funding in place for the project in a year," said Colin Pease, the vice president of special projects for the railroad company.

"Construction would take about three years to complete," he said. "I may be optimistic, but I don't believe it's an unrealistic goal."

Railroad officials met with area business leaders recently to discuss their proposal to extend passenger service from Danbury to Pittsfield, Mass.

They also talked March 7 to Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams and members of the town's Chamber of Commerce.

"They sounded really positive about the proposal," Mr. Adams said, "that it could really happen and it's not just a pipe dream."

"I'm really optimistic about this," he added. "It would be great for the town to have passenger service."

Mr. Pease estimated it would take about $200 million to upgrade the tracks and purchase the additional equipment needed for passenger service.

During a meeting with The News-Times/Spectrum editorial board, he said the state has a number of surplus locomotives and passenger cars ideal for the project.

Mr. Pease said he foresees the railroad company partnering with the state on the project, although no subsidies would be required, unlike passenger services already existing in Connecticut.

Additional ridership on the Danbury/New Milford branch as a result of the northward extension, he said, could earn as much as $20 million, which would more than pay for any debt service on money the state bonded to help pay for the project.

Mr. Pease said business people have expressed an interest in building some of the stations needed along the new line.

The railroad could also borrow money from the federal government through a low-interest loan.

"Connecticut's economy needs to grow," he said. "If we succeed, this could bring an additional 100,000 to 200,000 more people into the region spending money."

"That could generate a lot of growth for the region," Mr. Pease concluded.

An economic benefits analysis of the proposal is due later this spring.

"If we succeed, this could bring an additional 100,000 to 200,000 more people into the region spending money."

Colin Pease

Vice president of special projects for Housatonic Railroad