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Destination Naugatuck: A Proposed Inland Port Would Make The Borough A Shipping Hub

Naugatuck Mayor Pete Hess (left) show Senator Richard Blumenthal a map of the plans for the proposed inland port along the Naugatuck River, the rail line, and Route 8.
Ali Oshinskie
Connecticut Public Radio
Naugatuck Mayor Pete Hess (left) shows Sen. Richard Blumenthal a map of the plans for the proposed inland port near the Naugatuck River, the rail line and Route 8.

As Congress negotiates President Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion American Jobs Plan in Washington, municipalities in Connecticut are vying for federal dollars to fund all sorts of projects. Naugatuck has plans for an inland port that could make the borough a shipping hub. The port would be a destination for shipments on freight trains and trucks where drivers could pick up or drop off containers and connect to areas north of Naugatuck and south in the tri-state area.

Mayor Pete Hess keeps an aerial view of the Naugatuck River on his desk. He brought that map, and half a dozen others, to the Naugatuck Event Center Tuesday. 

Hess started with a clarification: “An inland port has nothing to do with the river, OK? An inland port can be anywhere,” Hess said.

Naugatuck’s port would be of special interest to manufacturers in northern New England, Canada and the rest of the country. Because, Hess said, “The closest point you can get to New York City in the tri-state area by freight rail is right here in Naugatuck, Connecticut.” 

For example, bottles of water in transit from Maine could travel by overnight freight rail to Naugatuck, transfer to a truck at the inland port, get on Route 8 and continue to Connecticut, New Jersey or New York. 

Hess says the project needs $71 million for brownfield remediation and rail upgrades. He hopes $25 million of that can come from a federal grant. 

Hess took U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal on a tour of the proposed site Tuesday. The port would sit adjacent to the Naugatuck River, the rail line and Route 8. It’s also the former site of the Uniroyal factory. Naugatuck’s wealth in the late 19th and 20th centuries came from chemical and rubber manufacturers, including Uniroyal.  

Hess says some rail mergers have changed their plans a bit. But he’s filed paperwork in the hopes of bringing a lot of action and economic activity back to the Valley.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.

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