Responding to criticism from members of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council about the procedure the state Department of Transportation is following to replace the parking structure at the Stamford train station, the department’s commissioner, James P. Redeker, issued a statement Wednesday night expressing his confidence in the process.
Reading the statement during the council’s December meeting at the Government Center, Gene Colonese, administrator of rail operations for the department, said, “The commissioner puts his personal and department’s credibility and reputation on the line, and is confident this will be successful.”
“The commissioner,” Colonese said, “asks the council to respect and support this process.”
Council members have questioned the secrecy by which three vendor proposals to replace the station are being evaluated, and the inability to learn the criteria being used to select the winning proposal.
Saying he understood the proposals were not being made public for competitive reasons, Council Chairman James Cameron said, “I think the public has the right to know the process that will be followed in doing these evaluations.”
The proposals are being evaluated by Department of Transportation employees along with a five-member task force of citizens appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
During an interview Tuesday night, Cameron said, “It’s a public-private contract, and the proposers do not want proposals being seen by competitors, so this entire process of reviewing these proposals is being done in secret.”
The proposals were submitted in two parts, the first describing the technical plan by which the vendor intends to design and construct the new structure, followed by a breakdown of the project’s estimated cost.
To date, the department and the task force have only unsealed the technical portion of each proposal. Colonese said after one of the plans is selected, the “economic portion” of each proposal will be evaluated.
After that, he said, a “composite evaluation and recommendation” will be prepared by ConnDOT, which will probably occur in January. The final step, he said, will be negotiating with the vendor of the preferred proposal.
The current parking structure has 727 parking spots and the state wants to replace it with a structure having 1,000 spots, along with a combination of retail space and residential units.
During the interview Tuesday night, Cameron said the idea most contested by commuters is the possibility of building the new structure one-quarter mile away from the station.
“That’s the real gist of what the council’s been fighting for,” Cameron said. “If you tear [the existing structure] down, replace it where it is, not a quarter-mile away.”
The existing structure sits on state-owned land, Cameron said, so “bottom line, ConnDOT is going to do what it wants to do.”