For immediate release: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Groups Call for Fast-Tracking New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail Line
Urge speedy efforts to make the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project "shovel ready" to begin construction this year and get service running by 2011.
HARTFORD - As Connecticut DOT begins holding long delayed hearings on the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail line, a coalition of transportation, environment, civic and business groups held a press conference in Hartford Tuesday to urge the Rell administration and legislature to take steps to fast track the project.
In 2005, DOT released an implementation plan that called for construction to have begun by July of 2008. However, initial phases of the project, including environmental assessments have not yet gotten underway. Representative Christopher Donovan joined the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, ConnPIRG, Environment Connecticut, Regional Plan Association, Connecticut Fund for the Environment and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association in urging the Governor to work with ConnDOT and the legislature to move quickly to make the project "shovel ready" in the near future and ensure that commuter trains begin rolling on the line within two years.
Rep. Christopher G. Donovan said, "This project makes sense on so many levels. This is the type of proposal that the Federal government should fund. But more over, it is about protecting the environment by getting cars off the roads, it is about improving our transportation infrastructure by creating commuter service on an existing rail corridor. During my tenure as Speaker I look forward to working with the Governor and the Department of Transportation to get these trains moving as quickly as possible. Providing this transportation alternative to the residents of Connecticut will be one of my main priorities."
On Saturday President-elect Obama, describing his economic stimulus and infrastructure plan said, "We'll set a simple rule - use it or lose it."
According to the groups, fast-tracking the project to get initial service running within two years will help revitalize Connecticut's struggling economy by providing short and long term jobs, help reduce the number of cars on Connecticut's roads and promote transit oriented development and mixed-income housing in towns along the rail corridor. The groups called for immediate action to get initial service operating as a first step towards full-scale commuter rail between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.
"The New Haven to Springfield Commuter Rail line is integral to the economic development, environmental protection and quality of life of all Nutmeggers," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working toward a transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.
Connecticut's unemployment rate climbed to 6.5% in October and the state is projected to lose as many as 80,000 jobs during the current recession. The proposed commuter rail line would provide a much needed economic stimulus for the communities along its path from New Haven to Springfield.
"The Rell administration needs to get serious about getting the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project up and running to get Connecticut back to work and rebuild our economy," said Ilicia Balaban, ConnPIRG Advocate. "This project will create as many as 775 jobs, and produce up to $150 million in economic growth to help Connecticut's economic recovery."
"This rail investment provides the single greatest opportunity in the state to create short term jobs while enabling low-carbon transportation alternatives, increasing existing home values and affordable housing opportunities in central CT, and linking Hartford and the I-91 corridor to the New York and Fairfield county economies," said David Kooris, Connecticut Coordinator of the Regional Plan Association.
Connecticut's efforts to encourage building of mixed-income housing is drawing strong support from many municipalities along the rail line. 16 towns and cities along the line are considering using the HOMEConnecticut program to create clusters of transit-oriented, mixed-use development where residents can walk to train stations. This can ensure strong ridership - and farebox revenue - that can reduce the need for public subsidy to make the system financially viable.
"Getting this commuter rail project up and running in the next two years will help put Connecticut back to work, boost the economy, and help the environment," said Environment Connecticut Program Director Christopher Phelps. "Creating commuter rail links between central Connecticut's communities will enable commuters to get out of their cars, reduce miles travelled on our roads, and cut the state's global warming pollution."
"The current time frame for the Environmental Assessment needs to be dramatically streamlined to guarantee that the full service is underway in no more than two years," said Curt Johnson, senior attorney and program manager for Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "We need this project, and we need it now!"
The coalition urged DOT to "fast track" efforts to complete the commuter rail line so that it can be "shovel ready" to qualify for federal economic stimulus support, and begin operating within two years. They also called on Governor Rell to make the project a priority of her administration's efforts to rebuild Connecticut's economy and put the state back to work.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. www.tstc.org.
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment is a non-profit organization working to improve air and water quality, minimize the negative impacts of highways, and preserve open space, wetlands and public water supplies.
Regional Plan Association (RPA) is an independent, not-for-profit regional planning organization that improves the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of the 31-county New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region through research, planning, and advocacy.
ConnPIRG is an advocate for the public interest and is dedicated to protecting consumers across Connecticut by standing up to powerful interests that oppose common sense reform.
Environment Connecticut is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization that draws on 30 years of success in tackling our state's top environmental problems.