For immediate release: February 17, 2009
Contact Information: Kate Slevin, Ryan Lynch
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
P: 212-268-7474
C: 860-796-6988

Connecticut Economic Recovery Now in Hands of Governor, DOT and MPOs

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Urges State Officials to Focus on “Fix it First” & Transit Projects

Connecticut — As President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) called on state and local officials to ensure that the transportation portion revitalizes the Connecticut economy, focusing on job creation by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in much needed public transit.

During Wednesday’s town hall meeting in Ft. Myers, FL President Obama took an unequivocal stand in favor of a 21st Century transportation system including energy efficient investments such as high speed rail and public transit. Said President Obama: “Even when you’re in the middle of crisis, you’ve got to keep your eye on the future…The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over.”

“These funds offer state and local officials an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs that will build the strong communities the people of Connecticut want to live in," stated Kate Slevin, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit policy watchdog organization. “We’re calling on Governor Rell, ConnDOT Commissioner Marie and Metropolitan Planning Organization leaders to heed President Obama’s vision for change and urging them to spend these investments wisely.”

The bill signed today includes about $46 billion for transportation, including roughly $440 million for Connecticut to invest in public transit, roads, and bicycle and pedestrian investments. (State shares of intercity and high speed rail funding in the new law have yet to be determined.) Connecticut will receive the funds through programs that allow states broad discretion.

“At this point, it is up to Governor Rell to use this money to make our communities stronger,” said Ryan Lynch, senior planner and Connecticut coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Some of the key points of the legislation are listed below:

  • $27.5 billion is allocated to the Surface Transportation Program (STP) that, as its name states, can be spent on the state’s most pressing surface transportation needs. Connecticut’s $302 million in STP funds could begin to restore our transportation networks to a state of good repair if state and local officials give priority to fix-it-first rather than unneeded new highways that encourage more congestion and oil dependence.
  • Flexibility built into STP funds allows Connecticut to invest in transit, road, rail, and bicycle and pedestrian projects that reduce oil dependence, traffic congestion, and vulnerability to gas price hikes.
  • Just under 30% of STP funds will be directed (“suballocated”) to metropolitan decision makers, who will have the flexibility to use the money to meet the diverse transportation needs of their constituents while helping to foster the clean energy economy envisioned by the President.
  • A substantial percentage of funding is explicitly dedicated to public transportation, to help meet growing demand. Connecticut’s share of the $8.4 billion will be approximately $138 million.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign recognized that Congress provided no criteria to ensure that STP funds are prioritized towards fixing Connecticut’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding public transit and bicycle and pedestrian routes. As a result, decisions about the kinds of jobs to create and projects to fund with federal stimulus funds are in the hands of state and local officials. Tri-State urged these officials to use that flexibility to create the jobs that will both repair the system we have, and build a transportation system that meets the needs of an energy-efficient 21 st Century economy.

“Not all stimulus jobs are created equal,” stated Slevin. “State and local officials need to choose the projects that not only stimulate the economy now, but also fix our infrastructure, reduce our reliance on oil, and build a robust economy for decades to come.”

The group emphasized that utilizing stimulus dollars to purchase M-8 New Haven rail cars and new buses for the state’s bus system and to improve Connecticut’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure would be better investments than projects to widen or extend roadways.

“We must seize this moment, rebuild Connecticut for our children and grandchildren, and put our communities on a clean-energy, high-speed track to the future,” added Lynch.

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The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working for a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New Jersey, and downstate New York. www.tstc.org