In a recent interview, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136th district, tried to cast the state's decision to allocate $3 million of bond financing for the reconfiguration of Exit 41 of the Merritt Parkway as good news for Westport. And Mr. Steinberg is now making the same claim in his campaign literature.
Mr. Steinberg apparently wants to take credit for helping to secure state funding for this project. But the reality is that neither the state nor Westport should be paying for these improvements.
The cost of reconfiguring that intersection was supposed to be borne by the Westport Weston Family Y, a fact that Mr. Steinberg has either forgotten or is willing to overlook in his attempt to curry favor with the Y's powerful donors. In fact, the Y's assurance that it would pay for the work was a precondition to its obtaining the necessary zoning and other approvals for its new Mahackeno facility, which will add hundreds of cars to that intersection.
For Mr. Steinberg to characterize this as good news for Westport residents is misleading. The only party who stands to benefit from this decision is the Y, which will be able to shave $3 million from its construction budget. And by the way: the work at the intersection is already done -- so this is simply a question of who will pay for it.
Moreover, by allocating money to this project, Mr. Steinberg ignores the fact that those funds could have been allocated toward other, more worthy projects. (Just ask Metro North's beleaguered riders.) To force state taxpayers to foot this bill is unconscionable given the magnitude of the state's infrastructure and transportation problems.
Mr. Steinberg has demonstrated a willingness to put his own political agenda ahead of his constituents' best interests. Let's hope that the state Bond Commission will have the wisdom to turn down this funding request and protect us from this kind of fiscal irresponsibility.