After Decades of Neglect, Transportation Infrastructure Took Center Stage in Rell Administration

November 16, 2010

There was a time, not long ago, when there was little
political will to make mass transit a serious part of
Connecticut’s transportation system. Cars were
king. Trains were seen as, well, a relict of a bygone
era. The smart money was on building bigger highways
and letting our neglected train system take a back seat.

A few of us took every opportunity to point out that
a modernized, efficient and workable mass transit system
would both boost our economy, encourage business development,
and help our environment by making it possible for more
people to leave their cars at home. 

Fortunately, Governor M. Jodi Rell heard us and sought
new transit-oriented leadership at the Department of
Transportation (DOT).  Due to her leadership, the
improvement and modernization of Connecticut’s
mass transit system finally took off.  As Governor
Rell said, people talked and talked about doing something
but little was done until she took office in 2004. 

Now, DOT considers our bus and train system to be
equally important as our highways – and she has
made much needed investments in all of these areas.

Consider the Rell-era investments in mass transit
and highway, including:

  • $667 million for 300 new rail cars for use on the
    New Haven Line
  • $300 million for new rail maintenance facilities
  • $103 million for a new train station in West Haven
  • $187 million for operational improvements and congestion
    mitigation measures for Interstate 95 between Greenwich
    and North Stonington
  • $150 million for improvements to other state and
    interstate roads; and
  • $7.5 million for new transit buses.

Other transportation initiatives undertaken during the
Rell Administration include:

  • Enhanced rail service; including station improvements
    on Shore Line East
  • Purchase of 24 new M-8 rail cars for use on Shore
    Line East
  • Redevelopment of the service plazas on Connecticut’s
    highways through a unique public/private partnership

  • Developing new rail station parking in Stamford
  • A new New Haven Line rail station and parking in
  • A new “511” traveler information system

  • Creation of separate Engineering and Highway Operations
    Bureaus within DOT and reorganization of the Bureau
    of Finance and Administration. 

Also, I expect the next big project to be completed
will be the replacement of manual signals along the
Danbury branch line with modern remote-controlled computerized
signals. This much-needed project had been stalled –
and its state and federal funding jeopardized as a result
– for more than a decade.

Thanks to Governor Rell’s willingness to listen
to what I and other transportation advocates had to
say, the computer signalization project will be finished
in 2012. This will make it possible to make other much
needed improvements, such as electrification, which
would make the Danbury branch line compatible with the
main line. Meanwhile, just finishing the computerized
signalization project will make it possible to add seven
more trains to the morning and evening commutes.

Transportation news is just as good in other parts
of the state.  Governor Rell has led the way for
the development of a high-speed commuter rail line linking
New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Massachusetts. 
In fact, just last month, Governor Rell joined members
of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation in Meriden
to announce a $121 million federal grant for the much-anticipated
Springfield-to-New Haven rail line.

Although critics abound, no one can deny that we owe
a great deal of our transportation infrastructure progress
to the determination, leadership, and vision of Governor
Rell. After decades of neglect, she jump started numerous
stalled road and rail projects and has seen them through
to completion, a transportation legacy that will endure
long after her term concludes.

You can see the relief on the faces of weary commuters.
 The Governor’s efforts to make our mass
transit system more efficient, more modern, and more
commuter-friendly should continue after she leaves office. 
After all, a sound transportation system is an economic
imperative in revitalizing our great state.