Rell Signs $2.3 Billion Transportation Bill

REGIONAL – Nicknamed the “Roadmap for Connecticut’s Economic Future”, a $2.3 billion transportation enhancement bill, known as House Bill 5844, was signed by Governor M. Jodi Rell in a ceremony on August 25 on board a Metro-North commuter train.

The bill builds on the Governor’s $1.3 billion transportation package passed last year and is the centerpiece of mass transit initiatives advanced by both the governor and the legislature this year.

For our region, the bill provides financing for the Department of Transportation to make highway and operational traffic flow improvements on I-95 and I-395, conduct environmental planning for the expansion of I-95 between Branford and Rhode Island, and design and planning work to complete Route 11 from Salem to I-95.

Studying the mobility needs of residents and businesses would also be financed as well as improvements to Long Island Sound to facilitate its use for passenger and freight movement.

It would improve Shore Line East service by providing financing for rehabilitating passenger coaches, increased parking and rail station improvements, and add equipment to provide at least 1,000 seats.

Rell said 80 percent of Connecticut commuters travel alone in their cars while another 9 percent carpool and 4 percent use public transportation.

“We need to change those numbers. We need to get more people to use alternatives to their own cars. The investments we have made in the last couple of years are starting to pay off. Ridership is up on both trains and buses,” Rell said.

Connecticut DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick confirmed that after rail stations in Guilford, Clinton, and Branford were renovated with expanded parking, ridership increased.

A renovated railroad station in Madison is under construction while a proposal for a station in Westbrook is contingent on a land swap that must be acted upon by the town.

Nursick expects both stations to receive increases in ridership upon project completion.

“A strong transportation system is vital to a strong economy. Connecticut is blessed with a strong 21st century economy, and we need a 21st century transportation system to support it,” Rell said.

Rell said the ceremony marked a historic day for the state’s transportation system for those traveling in the state for business and pleasure on rails, busses, and roadways.

“I have a goal for our transportation system. I want it to have that ‘wow’ factor. I want people to walk onto our rail stations, to get on our rail cars or take our highways and say, Wow. Look what they have done in Connecticut,” Rell said.

The $2.3 billion in bonding includes federal support and would provide financing for a number of projects.

Regarding road work, the bill provides financing for the planning of expansion projects on I-95 and I-84 and initiates a host of highway projects around the state.

The bill includes funding a $52 million new commuter busway between New Britain and Hartford.

Much of the financing for the bill will enhance rail services such as $60 million for parking and station improvements, $45 million for branch line improvements, and $25 million to rehabilitate existing rail cars.

Specific rail projects include $11 million for a new rail station in Orange plus planning funds for a new rail station in West Haven, and $146 million for new rail service from New Haven to Hartford to Springfield.

Funding for a rail link to the cargo operators at the Port of New Haven will be provided in an attempt to get freight off trucks and onto rail cars.

“Let’s face it: the whole system received only minimal investment for decades,” Rell said, “it was like the weather. Everyone talked about it, but nobody did anything about it. Well, we’ve done something about it.”

The Governor thanked legislators attending the event, specifically House Speaker Jim Amann of Milford, for their support for the bill which will provide transportation improvements.

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