Improved Transportation = Better State Economy [Commentary]

August 14, 2006

One of the most challenging issues facing state government is improving transportation across the State of Connecticut. From trains, to buses, to inter-state highways, there are a variety of areas that must be addressed to better the overall transportation system in our state.

Last summer, Governor M. Jodi Rell demonstrated strong leadership by signing into law a landmark transportation initiative that had received nearly unanimous support in the General Assembly. The $1.3 billion measure includes state funding for rail cars, buses and highway improvements.

I voted as well as a majority of legislators voted in favor of Governor Rell’s transportation initiative for a variety of reasons, most notably because I recognize how important a solid transportation system is to Connecticut and its economy, both now and in the future. The more efficient our entire transportation system is, the easier it becomes for businesses to operate. Plus, by expanding public transportation, we create even more jobs in the state. That’s not to mention the convenience and access for State residents that a smoothly operating transportation system provides.

Among the highlights of the 2005 bill was $187 million for “congestion mitigation” measures on Interstate 95, $150 million for improvements to I-84 and I-91, and $7.5 million for new transit buses. But the largest investment was to be made in the state’s rail service, specifically on the New Haven and Shore Line East lines. These improvements also required a train station location in North Haven. In total the new law calls for close to $1 billion to be spent on updating and improving the rail lines in Connecticut.

The State recently took a big step towards that end as the State Bond Commission approved the largest purchase of rail cars in the state’s history. In total, $459 million in state funds will be used to purchase up to 300 new, state of the art cars for those who travel on Connecticut rail lines. That’s not to mention an additional $25 million that was approved and will be used to update and refurbish current rail cars.

The new cars were built by Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc. They are M-8 rails cars, which will improve reliability, allow for increased seating, and provide a more comfortable ride. Forty of the Connecticut owned Bombardier passenger rail cars that are currently used on the New Haven main line, Shore Line East, and the Danbury and Waterbury Brach lines will be kept in excellent working order. That repairs program will be similar to one already under way upgrading the M-2 New Haven Line electric rail cars.

Connecticut’s transportation system is entering a new age. This investment in our system is long overdue. We can to continue this effort in the future in order to help ensure future economic growth in the State, reduce pollution and increase public transportation.

If you have any additional questions, please call my office toll-free at 1(800) 841-1421 or e-mail me at [email protected]