At a park-and-ride lot off Interstate 84 in Waterbury, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other Democratic politicians on Tuesday touted his five-year slate of highway and transit projects, including a project to widen and repave a 2.7-mile stretch of the highway that passes through the city.
"This is for the workers 10 years from now or 20 years from now who are getting home from work on time to watch their children's soccer games," said U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.
The plan first issued in January also includes a combined $130 million to repave and rehabilitate the Merritt Parkway in Stamford and add speed change lanes at Exits 14 and 15 in Norwalk on Interstate 95, which is one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the state.
"We are moving projects along," Malloy said.
The list of projects totals about $1.8 billion combined, $1.4 billion of it for highways and roads, and $345 million for bus and rail infrastructure. Malloy said the budget includes $57 million for paving pockmarked roads damaged this winter.
"What we're really here to talk about is Connecticut moving again," Malloy said. "We're talking about $3 billion in the state of Connecticut to catch up on long overdue transportation projects."
Malloy was joined Tuesday by Democrats U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Esty, as well as representatives of the building trades, to call for a new federal transportation funding bill to boost dollars for Connecticut's pressing highway and rail needs, and to create construction jobs.
The state Department of Transportation estimates 9.4 jobs are created for every $1 million spent on highway and transit projects.
Without the approval of a new transportation bill by August, the federal government's Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money later this year, potentially halting projects already underway.
"The federal government has to step up and do its part," Murphy said.
Blumenthal said the state's congressional delegation needs to win a larger amount of federal transportation funding for the state as Congress as a whole considers action on a new long-term transportation funding bill.
"Right now we are in danger of leaving our transportation infrastructure, particularly our railroads, in decline," Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said that Connecticut's highways like Interstates 95 and 84, and the Metro-North Railroad have not received a share of available funds that is commensurate with the state's economic importance.
"We are not getting our fair share, we deserve more and we'll fight for more, he said.
Last week, Malloy announced the state would vie for more than $3 billion in federal Superstorm Sandy grants to pay for the replacement of a 118-year-old, failure-prone railway span over the Norwalk River on the New Haven Line, a major signal upgrade for the line and safeguards for the New Haven rail yard's power transmission system.
In part those grants will be awarded based on the likelihood that those assets could be damaged by flooding or other impacts of a massive storm.
Karen Burnaska, a coordinator for the nonprofit Transit for Connecticut, which advocates for public transportation improvements, questioned whether the 2014 budget's use of $1.4 billion for highways and bridges and $345 million for rail and other transit needs would provide adequate funds to improve the New Haven Line and bus lines in the state. Burnaska said that while the state should invest in highway expansion projects, which improve safety and operations, additional road capacity often spurs more development, which in the long run erases gains in reducing congestion.
"I'm thinking there is going to have to be more discussion about state investment in Metro-North in not just maintaining, but also improving service," Burnaska said.