Boucher and O’Dea Get Support for Major Bill to Finance Upgrades on Rail Line

March 23, 2015

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) the Ranking member on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee has also been named as the Ranking member on the finance transportation bonding subcommittee. This appointment may allow Boucher to garner support for a major funding bill which will help finance upgrades on one of the busiest rail lines in the country.

“Infrastructure on the Metro North line and the branch lines is vital to the economy of Connecticut and to the safety of commuters,” said Sen. Boucher.

A bill proposed by Senator Boucher and Transportation Ranking Member Representative Tom O’Dea of New Canaan along with others on both sides of the aisle would authorize the State Bond Commission to issue $4 billion in special tax obligation bonds through 2024 for the following:

  • Electrification of the Danbury rail lane from Norwalk to Wilton, and then from Wilton to Danbury; and the extension of passenger service to New Milford
  • Improvements necessary to increase the number and frequency of trains on the Waterbury line, and adding stops in Seymour, Shelton and Derby
  • Upgrading and improving the train station on the New Canaan line; and
  • Ensuring that transportation planning includes the Housatonic line as integral part of the plan, and to align it with Massachusetts’ plans; and improve conditions for freight service and add passenger service to the Housatonic line.

The state Department of Transportation Commissioner, James Redeker has testified before the Transportation committee in recent weeks to explain his agency entered into an agreement with Metro North to operate the New Haven line almost 35 years ago and “It is the engine that does, always, all the time help move people back and forth in our economy.”

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) reported to lawmakers – Connecticut ranked 49 out of 50 (2013 CNBC poll) in transportation and infrastructure quality while at the same time Metro-North Commuter railroad became the busiest commuter railroad in the United States providing 135,000 daily rides.

CCM said that “reliability and safety remain a concern, due to the rise in delays and accidents (some fatal).”

Boucher agrees that the development of a statewide strategic plan to improve and invest in this vital rail system will enhance safety and reliability and promote economic development.
It is her hope that the proposed bill might also be included in any overall comprehensive transportation legislation that may go before the legislature this year.

Transportation bonding committee members also acknowledged making improvements to the rail infrastructure is a cost effective means to reduce traffic congestion, ease the wear-and-tear of roadways, and promote growth.

CCM also recently touted the expansion of freight rail service, testifying to the committee that freight rail service would also augment the development and competitiveness of Connecticut’s deep water ports.

“Such rail improvements would not only mean a reduction in the amount of trucks on the highways, but equally as important, would be a catalyst for Connecticut to serve as the shipping gateway to new England, rather than a rest stop, for many businesses,” added CCM.

The transportation bonding bill supported by Sen. Boucher and Rep. O’Dea along with members on both sides of the aisle now goes before the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee of the General Assembly.