Transportation advocates and officials across Connecticut gathered in the state capitol Monday to ask some tough questions about how the state will pay for badly-needed transit upgrades. Commuters themselves will probably have to chip in.
On the national level, we’re looking either at a “fiscal cliff” meltdown with big spending cuts or possible tax increases. Here in Connecticut, the state’s own money problems seem to be getting worse each day. So where does that leave funding for transportation?
On Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, announced the end of gas rationing in his state.
But two weeks after Sandy hit, it’s still hard to find gasoline in parts of the tri-state area. A rationing system is still in effect in New York City and parts of Long Island. So, what happened? Why aren’t we able to get enough gas to the places that need it?
I don’t normally think of commuting as an adventure. But it did seem a little like one yesterday morning as people got word that they could finally take the train from Stamford into Manhattan once again. Trumbull resident Brian Keane usually commutes from Westport into the city. Today, he drove to Stamford’s train station – and was ready for a little adventure when it came to parking.
“I actually have a bike in my car, because I figured if there wasn’t any parking, I’d park up on Bedford Street and bike down," he told me.
Like other government programs, there is a debate over funding for Amtrak. It’s a complicated business model for the rail operator because it’s owned by the government but operates in many ways like a private company.
Today, we’ll talk about the current state of rail in the United States. With all of this talk about high speed rail...including here in the northeast, how did we get to where we are today?
Commuters will have a chance to weigh in on state plans to rebuild a parking garage at the Stamford train station tonight. But since the names of potential developers and their plans will be kept a secret, no one’s sure what they’ll be able to weigh in on. WNPR’s Neena Satija reports.
Today, Governor Dannel Malloy is in China - leading a delegation trying to drum up business between our state and increasingly powerful economic force. He’ll also be making an appearance at the World Economic Forum being held there.
There’s talk of Hartford to New York in half an hour. New York to Boston in 90 minutes. Tunnels under the Long Island Sound zipping trains across the region. It’s exciting stuff. But here in Connecticut, many are saying, ‘wait a minute. First thing’s first.’
“We don’t have money today to run the railroad that we operate – or try to operate – today," says Jim Cameron.
The busway planned between Hartford and New Britain has been dubbed CTfastrak, perhaps to get out from under the divisive political connotations of “busway.” But as the plans start to take shape, local politics are again playing a role.
On August 6, New Haven's Board of Aldermen gave final approval to a major project that will remove highway 34, and replace the open land with biotech and medical facilities. It will also open up a part of the city that has been closed off to downtown by the highway since the 1950s.
The grant, announced last week, is part of the TIGER program begun by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2009. Several dozen cities and towns across the country, out of hundreds of applicants, were awarded a total of $500 million for projects following smart-growth principles.
The city plans to use most of the money to improve access from Union Station to Main Street and Asylum and Pearl streets downtown. That way more people can take the train to Hartford and easily get to their nearby office -- potentially dramatically changing the fabric of downtown.
I'm convinced that people in Connecticut really hate and fear mass transit, which is why mass transit in this state is stuck the era of Don Draper from Mad Men. The way people react to the Hartford/New Britain busway project is basically the way Gollum reacts when he's tied up with Elvish ropes: "It burns! It burns! We hates it!"
There are lots of reasons why now, getting into the game very late, Connecticut is going to face a lot of extra challenges. One of them is that development has followed no particular logic.
Home values continue to fall, and yet housing is becoming increasingly difficult to afford. As WNPR’s Neena Satija reports, a new study from the Center for Housing Policy shows the situation is particularly dire in Connecticut.
In 2010, nearly a quarter of all working households suffered from what’s called a “severe housing cost burden.” That means more than 50 percent of households' income goes toward housing. The problem is worst for people who are renting. Megan Bolton is a senior research analyst at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
Federal transportation officials have officially committed $275 million for a busway from New Britain to Hartford. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, state officials say construction will begin this Spring. The state says that when the busway opens in 2014, it will be a bus-only stretch of road with 11 stops and service every three to five minutes, carrying an estimated 16,000 passengers a day. The half-billion dollar project has drawn criticism from those who say it's too costly to those who say it's the wrong transportation plan to begin with. At a press conference, Governor Dannel Malloy defended the busway as he celebrated it.
More than 100 people chanting and carrying signs marched through downtown Hartford yesterday, calling for jobs, public safety and infrastructure investment, and an end to corporate greed. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the march was part of a national protest to declare an economic emergency. The culmination of the rally was to be the occupation of a busy onramp to Interstate 84. On the way there, people from labor groups, community organizations, and the Occupy Hartford movement talked about what brought them out.
Last week, Connecticut handed out $5 million to a variety of towns and cities to create transit-oriented development projects around existing or planned transportation hubs. Here to talk with us about what this means is Tom Condon, he's deputy editorial page editor and columnist with the Hartford Courant who writes about transportation and development.
Governor Dannel Malloy has appointed his interim Department of Transportation commissioner to oversee the agency permanently. WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports. Governor Malloy named James Redeker to run the department, which employs 3,000 people and oversees the state's highways, ports and airports. Redeker was appointed as the interim commissioner in March as the governor conducted a national search to fill the job. But Malloy said that the national search eventually turned up the local guy. "It turns out that the right person was here in our own backyard.
Today was supposed to be the day crews start the process of dry docking Connecticut's two state run ferries for the winter. The future of these historic ferries are uncertain. After state union workers rejected the first labor and concessions deal with Governor Malloy, the ferries were targeted for closure, but remain open while union members mull over a second deal. In the meantime the towns that surround the ferries are looking for other ways to keep them open.
The rest of Connecticut might groan at summer gas prices, but in Fairfield County, four dollar gas has a whole different meaning. Small businesses especially, pay the price for the county’s transportation woes. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.
When gas prices spiked this year, and gas was more than $4.30 a gallon in southwest Connecticut, the help wanted ads began going up all over Fairfield County.