The crumbling Stamford train station parking garage

The nearly decade-long struggle to replace the crumbling Stamford railroad station parking garage has taken another bizarre turn: The Connecticut Department of Transportation now wants to spend $1.5 million and take six months to repair the garage before they tear it down.
How did we get into this mess? Let’s examine the time line:
May 1983: Construction begins on the Stamford Transportation Center, featuring a new train station and parking garage. But construction is halted when cracks are found in beams. Repairs are made and work continues.
August 2006: Crumbing concrete, exposed and rusting rebar convince engineers the garage is near the end of its life. CDOT decides it will be cheaper to demolish the old 727-space parking garage than to repair it … $35 million.
August 2008: A hoped-for public-private partnership (PPP) to replace the old garage in its current location and add private office space falls through.
July 2012: The CDOT tries a PPP again, issuing an RFP (request for proposals) for replacement parking within a quarter-mile of the station. Developers are promised confidentiality. There are no public hearings on any concepts, leaving commuters in the dust. After protests, Gov. Malloy appoints a panel to oversee the CDOT process of selecting a developer. The group meets secretly, never seeking public input nor ever issuing a report on its work.
July 1, 2013: Developer John McClutchy and family donate $30,000 to the CT State Central Democratic Committee. By February 2015, the McClutchys have donated $165,000 to that federal account, bypassing state laws prohibiting contractor contributions to candidates.
July 11, 2013: The CDOT announces its choice of developers for the Stamford Garage, JHM Group of Companies (headed by John McClutchy), which proposes a 600,000-square-foot office/hotel complex on the site of the old garage while parking is moved a quarter-mile away.  Negotiations on a final deal get underway.
November 2014: Having been completely bypassed in the state’s decision-making process about the garage project, the city of Stamford Zoning Board passes a new zoning ordinance giving it final approval over any projects near the train station.
March 2015: In response, the governor introduces HB-6851, a bill to give the state control of all development within a half-mile of any transit station. The bill would create a quasi-governmental Connecticut Transit Corridor Development Authority, all of its members appointed by the governor, with the power of eminent domain. The bill is eventually killed.
April 2015: Large chunks of concrete fall from the ceiling of the Stamford garage, prompting CDOT to close the facility for safety inspection, displacing 700-plus daily parkers.
July 2015: The second anniversary of CDOT’s selection of JHM as developer of the garage passes, but there is still no signed contract. The old garage remains closed into a third month with no word on repairs.
October 2015: CDOT announces it will spend $1.5 million and six months to repair part of the old garage, eventually re-opening 270 of its 727 spaces.
Those facts speak for themselves. My only opinion: If CDOT can so mismanage a small project like this, what’s going to happen when Gov. Malloy gives it $100 billion to spend on his 30-year transportation plan?
Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at You can hear Jim’s take on transportation in and around Fairfield County, Connecticut, every Wednesday on HAN’s Coffee Break at 11 a.m.