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State $$$ proposed for airport, Congress St. Bridge

December 4, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — As he exits the governor’s office, Dannel Malloy and his administration are giving $14.6 million worth of parting gifts to the city that helped elect him twice and recently ensured another Democrat — Ned Lamont — will take over as Connecticut’s chief executive.

The state bond commission, which is chaired by the retiring Malloy and borrows money for infrastructure and other needs all over Connecticut, will have its final meeting of the Malloy era Dec. 11.

And the agenda, published online Tuesday, includes some big dollar amounts for a handful of high-profile Bridgeport projects sought by Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration and the city’s legislative delegation. Ganim and Bridgeport’s legislators are all, like Malloy and Lamont, Democrats.

The largest figure — $7 million — is for, as previously reported in November, improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport that will help Bridgeport attract a private company to return commercial passenger service to the Stratford-based facility. Those improvements would include construction of a new airport terminal.

While the Ganim administration has been tight-lipped on behind-the-scenes efforts to woo an airline, Daniel Roach, a mayoral aide, over the summer said that “two different groups in the aviation business” were interested in a long-term lease at Sikorsky.

And the bond commission agenda emphasizes that the money will not be spent until “all necessary financial commitments and assurances” from Bridgeport’s unnamed private partner are in place.

The Dec. 11 agenda also includes $3.7 million to help Ganim keep a 2015 campaign promise to replace the long-closed Congress Street Bridge over the Pequonnock River and reconnect the East Side to downtown. The old Congress Street span — a drawbridge — got stuck in the open position in 1997. The city has successfully pursued the more affordable replacement alternative of having that section of the river designated as non-navigable so a cheaper fixed bridge can be built.

Fire officials have also wanted the bridge replaced to improve emergency response times to the East Side.

An additional $2.273 million is before the bond commission to help Bridgeport continue efforts to fortify its shoreline, and particularly the South End, against coastal flooding. The so-called Resilient Bridgeport project has been in the works since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and has already received $42 million in federal aid.

Flooding has not only been a problem for South End residents, but hindered efforts to redevelop dormant and blighted properties.

The last six-figure contribution to Bridgeport on the Dec. 11 bond commission agenda is $1 million toward the continued cleanup of the long-vacant Remington Arms factory complex on the East Side.

Bridgeport has a bit of a leg up on the 168 other cities and towns competing for state dollars thanks to state Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport. Moore in May was named by Senate leadership as that body’s Democratic co-chair of the bonding subcommittee, giving her a say over the funds that get dispersed.

And so it was Moore, a potential primary opponent for Ganim as he seeks re-election in 2019, who beat City Hall and her legislative colleagues to the punch and trumpeted the Dec. 11 bond commission agenda Wednesday.

“As we envision a future for Bridgeport full of economic growth and job opportunities, these projects will be part of how we achieve that,” Moore said in a press release. “I’m especially excited about the work being done to finally restore the Congress Street Bridge ... and about improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport. These transportation infrastructure projects will support future initiatives (and) will attract other businesses to our city.”

Over an hour later Ganim and the rest of the city’s state lawmakers issued their own joint statement. Ganim said, “I want to praise the administration of Governor Malloy for working with the city of Bridgeport to place these critical items on the bond commission agenda, sharing our vision for much needed economic progress that will benefit our entire region for years.”

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