Lamont calls for more rail service, Wi-Fi in commuter trains
MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont on Tuesday proposed more frequent trains on Connecticut’s commuter rail lines, Wi-Fi service on the new Hartford Line commuter rail system and increased bus service to Bradley International Airport.
The Greenwich businessman also called for the continuation of transit-oriented development as a way to get more cars off the roads, make communities attractive to younger people and ultimately boost economic development.
“This should be priority number one for the next governor of Connecticut,” said Lamont, who joined his running mate, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, at the Meriden train station to unveil their transportation initiative. It’s one of the stops on the Hartford Line.
To help cover the cost, Lamont reiterated his call for tolls on tractor-trailers. The proposal is similar to an initiative that’s been in place since June 11 in Rhode Island, where the trucking industry is challenging the tolls in court. Lamont estimates tolls on big rigs traveling through Connecticut would generate about $100 million annually, which is not enough to cover the full cost of modernizing the state’s aging transportation infrastructure. A report released last week from a Washington-based transportation research group said 59 percent of the state’s bridges are 50 years or older, the fourth highest share in the nation.
Lamont said Tuesday he believes the truck toll revenue will help to leverage more federal funding from Washington, D.C.
“We’re going to have the money to fix this transportation system,” he said, accusing Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski of cutting critical transportation funding with his plan to eventually phase out the income tax. Electronic tolling for all drivers, starting with Connecticut’s HOV lanes, is part of Independent candidate Oz Griebel’s plan.
Stefanowski has been highly critical of instituting tolls, arguing that Connecticut taxpayers are already taxed too much.
In written statement, he called Lamont’s assertions about his proposal to eliminate the income tax “pure fiction,” arguing his plan will fix Connecticut’s economy and ultimately generate more revenue “to fund critical priorities like transportation and education.”
Stefanowski has called for investigating public private partnerships to help rebuild the state’s infrastructure. On his website, Stefanowski explains how the private partner “funds part of the cost of construction, allowing us to improve the state’s transportation system without adding to our already massive budget debt.”
Lamont said Tuesday that if elected, he also hopes to work with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, to extend the Hartford Line from Springfield, Mass. to Boston.