A bipartisan agreement was announced recently between Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, and Democratic legislative leaders to deliver a 10-year, $2.3 billion transportation package. The proposal will not increase gasoline taxes or require tolls, the Associated Press reported.
“It’s wonderful when we can do things bipartisanly here, and that’s all this has been,” said House Speaker James Armann (D-Milford).
The agreement includes funds for a commuter-rail line between New Haven and Springfield, Mass.; a study of a commuter line form New London to Worcester, Mass.; $45 million to expand Metro-North service from Norwalk to Danbury; and money to upgrade the port of New Haven, with plans to do the same in New London and Bridgeport in the future.
Amann added that next year, legislators plan to set aside up to $2.4 billion for other transportation projects including highway construction that have been recommended by a state Transportation Strategy Board.
To avoid increased taxes or tolls, about a billion of the $2.3 billion package involved in the immediate legislation will be bonded, Amann said. Other funding will come from federal sources and the state’s gross receipts tax on petroleum products, which now goes into the state general fund. The gross receipts tax will not increase.
“We think that’s the way to go,” said Robert Genuario, Rell’s budget director. “We think it would not have been wise, in this particularly volatile climate, to increase the gasoline or increase a tax that would inevitably cause a rise in gasoline prices.”
Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams (D-Brooklyn) said the money for public transportation is particularly important.
“The days of simply widening roads and highways are over,” Williams said. “While we must maintain our roads and bridges, we must also have a greater commitment to mass transit, rail freight and use of our deepwater ports.”
This week’s pact package is phase two of Rell’s 10-year, $1.3 billion transportation initiative, announced in 2005. The plan includes money to buy 342 new passenger-rail cars for Metro-North, a rail car maintenance facility in New Haven, various highway improvements and 25 new Connecticut Transit buses.