Sharlach Op-ed / Fixing transportation system is key to ecnomic growth
Published 4:55 pm, Thursday, October 23, 2014
Connecticut is poised for significant state economic growth, if we want it.
Trying times means trying new things.
Daily, we are bombarded by the media and politicians rattling off statistics about the poor performance Metro-North. However, even "verified facts" may be skewed to support an opinion. We need viable alternative transportation infrastructure solutions, and how they will benefit Connecticut.
Over the past three decades, our area of Fairfield County has not had a seat at the legislative table regarding the level of operating and capital funds needed to adequately maintain and support our transportation requirements. This is not just one persons' fault. Our entire General Assembly created the problem by continually kicking our need for these funds down the road. Well guess what, we've run out of road!
This past July, I published a paper proposing that we form a public/private partnership to fund on the open capital markets -- not with state of Connecticut bonds -- the required infrastructure improvements for our commuter and freight rail lines. This non-government organization would be in conjunction with New York state. In part, it would emulate the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and be called the New York-Connecticut Transportation Authority.
My program has also been discussed with Connecticut Department of Transportation and the MTA. The concept of a public/private transit partnership was recently advocated in an editorial of The New York Times entitled "Minding The Transit Gap."
While being recognized as Connecticut's financial backbone, Fairfield County has transportation requirements which in fact are the state's and have been neglected for almost 30 years. Our roads, commuter and freight rail transportation capabilities will be the drivers of our success.
We should also recognize that there are two Connecticuts. One comprises Fairfield and New Haven counties, and the other is the remainder of the state. If you think of Connecticut as a square, we are the lower left hand quadrant. We represent 26 percent of the population and 40 percent of the state's revenue. Our transportation infrastructure requirements and the massive amounts of capital we will need is neither understood nor appreciated by the majority population of our state. While the Democratic Party is the majority party in the General Assembly, it is still the other Connecticut that has significant control in the General Assembly. It can be said that what Fairfield County makes, Connecticut takes.
For almost 30 years, we've been represented in Hartford by members of the minority party. Our legislators have had the choice of being the creative loyal opposition or disruptive obstructionists. On too many occasions, they have not chosen wisely, to our detriment. The solution is straightforward and direct: we change our representation.
It's all about jobs.
It's estimated that it may take up to $3 billion to rebuild the faltering rail bridges along the coast. This is only for the bridges. It does not take into account the transportation and infrastructure requirements for the three deep-water ports proposed for the Connecticut Port Authority. To the extent possible, and where we are able to reduce funding participation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, we can require that Connecticut businesses and Connecticut residents be hired first.
Now is the time for us to re-invent the Connecticut we all believe in.
We will get there from here.
Philip Sharlach is the Democratic nominee for state Senate in the 26th District.