“Tax Policy, Business Costs and Ease of Commute Critical to Job Growth: The Third Leg of the Economic Stool is Transportation”

July 8, 2010

I have written extensively regarding Connecticut’s need to reform its tax policy and reduce business costs to promote job growth. The third leg of the economic stool is transportation.

The need for lower taxes and business costs continues to assert itself. An article published on June 30th in U.S. News and World Report names Connecticut as one of the states with the highest tax increases in the nation, amounting to $221 per person for this biennium. Most of these new taxes are being charged to medium and larger businesses, effectively driving up their costs.

In light of these problems, it is heartening that Connecticut has made genuine progress in improving its transportation system. Mass transit and other transportation issues have been some of my top priorities since I became involved in state government, particularly as a new ranking member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.

This interest dates back to my first month as a state representative over a decade ago. As a newly elected legislator, I not only prevailed in a fight with a former governor to save our Norwalk to Danbury rail line from closing, but also to prevent the construction of a superhighway across our district’s historic towns and wetlands. The widening of Route 7 in Wilton, now nearing completion, was the compromise negotiated after that battle. Had the highway been built, both our environment and area residents’ quality of life would have suffered. Preserving the Branch line was only half the battle, however, since it had not been modernized in over 50 years.

Fortunately, our governor has taken encouraging steps to improve mass transit. Three hundred new rail cars will start to appear on our main line this fall and through 2012. In addition, $30 million has been dedicated to modernizing the Norwalk to Danbury rail system’s antiquated signaling operation. This change is necessary for future improvements, and will allow for new trains and better schedules. There is also a proposal under consideration to electrify the rail line which, if implemented, could reduce commute time by 20 minutes.

Regardless of any administrative changes that may occur at the state Department of Transportation under our next Governor, it is important that Connecticut continue to improve its mass transit system. Our future prosperity depends on how easily commuters get to work, how effectively businesses transport goods, and how environmentally responsible we are in developing our transportation systems.

Recently, I joined our Governor, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, state transportation officials, and members of the state’s congressional delegation to discuss high-speed rail in the northeast, and promote improvements to commuter rail service between Connecticut’s cities and neighboring states.

A regional approach to mass transit will keep Connecticut at the top of the federal priorities list. Updating Connecticut’s railroad and bus systems is the key to fostering a healthy regional economy that will attract new businesses and create jobs. Fortunately, our state and national leaders understand this – and we are all committed to working together to build on our progress.

I encourage readers interested transportation issues to contact my office at (860) 240-0465 or at [email protected]. Readers interested in learning more about the projects mentioned above may visit www.danburybranchstudy.com for information on the Danbury Branch Line and www.route7study.org for information on the Route 7 corridor.