AP NEWS

Matt Blumenthal Getting Connecticut back on track

October 10, 2018

Connecticut has two crucial economic advantages: its geography and its people. Our location is ideal, with proximity to New York City and Boston. And Connecticut boasts one of the best-trained and most well-educated workforces in the country. These features should make Connecticut a very popular destination for people and businesses.

To access and utilize Connecticut’s talent, businesses need to move those world-class Connecticut workers easily — both within the state, and to the major metropolitan areas that connect Connecticut to the capitals of finance, technology, and medicine. They also need to move talented workers from outside Connecticut, especially from New York, into our state. That’s why accessible, affordable, and reliable transportation systems are absolutely essential to building a successful next-generation Connecticut economy.

For decades, however, maintenance and upgrades to our transportation infrastructure — especially our mass-transit infrastructure — have been sacrificed for other priorities. Our transportation infrastructure has degraded to the point where we have the fifth-worst roads in the country. We have more than 300 failing bridges. And Metro-North’s New Haven line has become progressively slower and less reliable. It has also become less safe, as evidenced by a distressing recent series of crashes and derailments. These trends must be reversed.

We must prioritize infrastructure investment in the state legislature. Functioning transportation infrastructure — especially mass transit — is vital to attracting businesses, jobs, and people.

Businesses cite our failing transit infrastructure as the No. 1 impediment to moving or expanding into Connecticut. Improving our transit systems would remove that roadblock, allowing the many businesses finding New York City too expensive and overburdened to come to Fairfield County rather than northern New Jersey or Westchester County.

Improved transit would also increase quality of life, reducing traffic. Functioning and affordable mass transit allows for more livable cities with less congestion and more pedestrian-friendly downtowns. These are the kind of urban areas that attract the next generation of high-quality talent — exactly the talent GE claimed to be chasing when it flew to Boston.

Studies show that investments in the Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit (NJT), and the Harlem and Hudson lines increased ridership and decreased travel times, accelerating economic growth. In fact, when travel times to Manhattan on NJT were reduced by 14 minutes, property values adjacent to stations increased by 42 percent.

These developments would reverse Connecticut’s net outflow of people and jobs and help grow our economy and tax base.

Here are some practical steps to get our state’s transportation systems back on track. First, we need a bipartisan “transportation caucus” of state representatives and senators ready to tackle Fairfield County’s unique challenges. Fairfield County is an economic engine for the state. I pledge to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to help solve its transportation problems. One of our first steps should be to help create a lockbox to prevent future legislatures from raiding transportation funding for other obligations.

Second, we need to make major upgrades to our rail systems. Track deterioration and failure to adopt state-of-the-art technology have reduced Metro-North’s speed and reliability. Metro-North’s new rail cars can safely travel at 72 mph. On our tracks, they average 45. With tracks that allow them to fulfill their potential, a sub-40-minute express to New York City could be a reality. Improved switching and dispatching technology would allow more frequent and reliable service. And we should be increasing service on branch lines — not reducing it.

Third, we must immediately and properly redevelop the Stamford Transportation Center and its garage. As managed so far by the state Department of Transportation, the process has failed. A new redevelopment plan is necessary — one with more local control and transparency, and that prioritizes the needs of commuters.

These ideas are only some of the steps necessary to repair and upgrade our crumbling infrastructure. And I don’t claim to have a monopoly on good ideas. I will work with anyone willing to roll up their sleeves, regardless of party.

As I continue to knock on doors and make calls throughout the 147th district, I look forward your ideas and feedback, as well. You haven’t been shy about giving me them so far. Together, with hard work and good ideas, we’ll get Connecticut back on track.

Matt Blumenthal is an attorney and the Democratic candidate for state representative in Connecticut’s 147th District, covering parts of Stamford and Darien.

AP RADIO
Update hourly