Bond Commission Authorizes Funds For Rail Projects [Hartford Courant]

January 14, 2015

HARTFORD — The State Bond Commission on Monday endorsed $5.75 million in borrowing to fund the design of new rail stations in Enfield, West Hartford, Newington and North Haven along the newly rebranded Hartford commuter line.

Bond Commission Agenda
The money, which follows a $4 million allocation approved last year, will also pay for improvements to existing stations in Windsor Locks and Windsor, as well as a study to determine the location of a new station in Hamden. And it will fund two new stations on the New Haven line, in Orange and Bridgeport, as well as renovations to a station in Danbury.

“Creating a commuter rail line along the I-91 corridor is part of our transformative transportation vision for Connecticut,” Malloy said after the meeting. “This bond authorization will give these important projects real momentum and I’m happy about that.”

The Democratic governor also provided an early glimpse of his sweeping transportation plans, the centerpiece of his 2015 legislative agenda. He told reporters that unsnarling a traffic tangle at the Charter Oak Bridge on I-91 in Hartford will likely be part of the plan.

“A bridge that isn’t that old but somehow they had the bright idea of designing it with only one right-hand lane connecting to the bridge,” Malloy said during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building. “[That’s] not a good idea to begin with when the traffic was even lower in the ’80s than it is currently. Right now that project is a project that you can expect to see included in the long list of projects that we’ll lay out.”

Malloy is set to unveil his transportation plans on Feb. 18, when he presents his budget to the legislature. But he has already begin discussing his proposal with transportation advocates, holding a private meeting with them Monday afternoon following the bond commission meeting.

Republican lawmakers are already raising questions about how the state will pay for Malloy’s plans.

“Is it going to be from toll revenue?” asked state Sen. Scott Frantz. “Is it going to be from an increased gas tax? Is it going to be from another funding source? We don’t know.”

During the commission meeting, Frantz, who sits on the panel, asked Malloy to consider placing limits on the amount the state is willing to finance for long-term capitol projects. “Given the very ambitious transportation infrastructure investment program that you have suggested…which I think we all congratulate you for, would you consider doing a soft bond cap in the area of transportation borrowing?” Frantz asked the governor.

Malloy said he would set a cap on bonding when he submits his budget to the legislature. He acknowledged that his transportation ambitions will be tempered by the state’s financial realities.

“We’re not in a position to start mega-projects in the next couple of years,” he said. “This obviously has to be a ramp up as we get those largest projects ready to go. Some of those are even longer term: the 84 run through Hartford and the gigantic project down in Waterbury…are going to take some period of time and will probably be later in execution.”

The money allocated for the new rail stations is a good example of “how we can do things together and transform Connecticut,” Malloy said. “We need to continue to have an adult dialogue.”