NEW YORK -- In the next year, feasibility studies to study the possible addition of rail stations in Bridgeport and Stamford will get under way using part of a $3.5 million federal planning grant meant to foster development around transit hubs, officials said Friday.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and Connecticut planning agency officials joined New York members of the New York-Connecticut Sustainable Communities Initiative at the Regional Plan Assembly to accept the funding from U.S. Housing and Urban Development Regional Director Adolfo Carrion.

Carrion said the $100 million in grants for 45 different regions to encourage higher density development in cities is linked to environmental and resource concerns the projected population increases in the coming decades that will concentrate 81 percent of the country's population in cities.

"That growth is going to need to be vertical," Carrion said. "The city we knew of the last century, the industrial city that was the urban core is not the city we know now or in the future."

The study of a possible addition of a station at East Main Street in Stamford would be one of four studies costing between $200,000 and $300,000 to design or vet projects in Bridgeport, Norwalk, and New Haven to enhance mass-transit use, said South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Floyd Lapp.

A station at East Main Street in Stamford could be an alternative if downtown rail ridership outstrips capacity at the Stamford rail station, Lapp said.

The potential facility would also generate higher density housing along the Stamford Urban Transitway, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday.

"I think it is an important development," Malloy said. "It would be a boon for development in the South End that's already started and you should be able to put a station at that spot."

The Bridgeport station study would consider a station on the east side of the city that would encourage commercial and residential redevelopment on about 700 acres of land in the area, Finch said.

A more dynamic downtown will help attract more young professionals to Bridgeport, according to Donald C. Eversley, director of Bridgeport's Office of Planning and Economic Development, who said 25 to 38 year olds were the fastest growing group within Bridgeport's population because of the city's larger pool of cheaper housing than neighboring towns.

"Fairfield has three train stations and Bridgeport has only one with three times as many people," Finch said. "The bags of money come into the city on the trains."

The two other studies funded would:

Consider ways to change policies to regulations to help advance the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency's master plan to encourage redevelopment of and investment in the area around the South Norwalk railroad station;

Design a plan to phase in new parking structures around Union Station in New Haven to free up land closer to the facility for transit-oriented development.

"To remain globally competitive and broaden prosperity, we need to maintain and build around the region's transit network, our unique competitive advantage," Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association said. "From Babylon to Brooklyn, to Bridgeport, the goal of this partnership is to leverage the billions in state, local, and federal transit system investments by developing accessible jobs and mixed income housing in cities, village centers, and communities the system serves."

Staff Writer Martin B. Cassidy can be reached at martin.cassidy@scni.com or (203) 964-2264.