More details of Gov. Ned Lamont’s CT2030 transportation plan emerged at a press conference yesterday – as did reactions from a number of corners.
CT2030 is designed to invest $14 billion in the state’s roads and bridges and $7 billion in its public transit system through system preservation and maintenance, as well as enhancement projects that the governor says can be achieved over the next decade.
Rail and buses
CT2030, which is subject to approval by the state legislature, invests $6.2 billion across all of the state’s rail lines. That investment transforms the commuter experience – beginning on day one. Over the course of the decade-long program, new rail cars and locomotives will be added, express service to New York Penn Station will be introduced, and partnerships with telecommunications companies “will bring reliable, high-speed data service to trains.”
Those improvements will help reduce New Haven Line commutes to the New York border by at least 20 minutes by 2023, “with even more time savings by 2030,” the plan says.
The proposal also includes better signage and real-time bus information, and upgrades the most popular routes with additional shelters and service displays.
Roads and bridges
As previously reported, the plan includes tolls – which would range from 50 cents to $1 for passenger vehicles and $3.50 to $7 for heavy trucks, before discounts are applied – at 14 points in the state:
- I-95 over Metro-North in Stamford.
- I-95 in Norwalk and Westport.
- I-95 West Haven, reconstructing Exit 43 and replace bridge over Metro-North.
- I-95 East Lyme, interchange improvements and bridge replacement.
- I-95 New London and Groton, Gold Star bridge reconstruction.
- I-84 Newtown, reconstruction of Rochambeau Bridge over the Housatonic River.
- I-84 Waterbury, reinforcing the mixmaster.
- I-84 West Hartford, replacing crossing over Berkshire Road.
- I-91 Hartford, Charter Oak Bridge improvements.
- I-395 Plainfield, reconstruction bridge over Moosup River.
- Route 8 Waterbury, strengthen bridges south of Mixmaster.
- Route 9 Middletown, elevate highway and remove traffic lights.
- Route 15 Norwalk, improve connections between Route 15 and Route 7.
- I-684 Greenwich, bridge over Byram River.
The I-684 project has been particularly controversial, as it would involve New York state motorists paying for driving on a 1.3-mile stretch of the interstate that passes through Greenwich. Bedford (NY) Town Supervisor Chris Burdick has objected to the proposal, and said he expects to form a coalition with other Westchester County political leaders to protest against it.
A commenter on the Business Journal’s story yesterday about CT2030 called it “literal highway robbery.”
At any rate, Lamont held up improvements to a 2.7-mile stretch of I-84 in Waterbury that included its realignment and widening as what he hopes to accomplish on the other highways: Average rush-hour speed in the heavily congested Waterbury area increased by more than 45 mph, reducing travel times in the area from 30 to four minutes and decreasing monthly traffic crashes from 38 to three.
CT2030 also seeks to improve commercial air service to the area. In the plan, commuters to Bradley International Airport – the second largest airport in New England – will have the option of accessing the airport by traveling on an autonomous tram that will connect them to Bradley directly from the Hartford Line at the Windsor Locks Station.
In addition, the plan calls for “a fully functioning regional airport in southern Connecticut.” Together with the Federal Aviation Administration, the state will embark on an objective selection process to transform either Tweed New Haven Airport or Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford into a regional airport offering about 30 daily flights to major economic hubs across the country. The selected airport for expanded regional flights will also be connected to public transit.
The plan calls for leveraging new funding and federal financing sources, as well as creating more efficiencies within the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “By bringing in out-of-state funding and pursuing smart federal financing opportunities, the plan dramatically reduces the cost of the projects to Connecticut taxpayers,” according to the proposal.
In addition to the aforementioned controversy over the I-684/Greenwich project, CT2030 still faces what could be significant opposition from state Republicans, who have long insisted they would not support tolls of any kind.
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven applauded the administration for assessing the transportation system in the state in such a detailed fashion, but said the tolls issue remained “very problematic” for Republicans.
Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said his group remains opposed to highway tolls.
Various state Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for tolls in the past, but given the unpopularity of the idea with the general public – and the election next year – that support could evaporate. Democrats currently have a 22-14 majority in the Senate and a 91-60 majority in the House.
Sal Luciano, the president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, and H. Darrell Harvey, the co-CEO of the Ashworth Co., a national commercial real-estate company based in Stamford, have expressed their support for CT2030, as has The Business Council of Fairfield County.
“For generations, the state has neglected critical investments in our infrastructure, hampering economic growth and leaving residents in endless hours of traffic wondering why state officials didn’t fix these problems years ago,” Lamont said. “For the future of our state, we can no longer kick the can down the road on these improvements – we must fix this long overdue problem and move our state forward today.”