STAMFORD — As a follow-on to the plan he announced last week to spend more than $100 billion on transportation infrastructure throughout the state over 30 years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday invited a group of Fairfield County politicians and business officials to offer suggestions as to what its priorities should be.
About 35 people attended the session in the Stamford Government Center, where Malloy emphasized that his plan is directed at all means of transportation, from highways and rails to bike plans and walking paths.
Malloy said the state’s history in dealing with transportation projects has been to stretch them out for extended lengths of time so they could be funded incrementally, leaving its transportation systems handicapped with outdated and unsound infrastructure.
He said that, since he’s taken office, the state’s transportation funding has already been ramped up about 65 percent from what was spent during previous administrations.
Malloy was joined at the meeting by state Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, who said receiving input from the state’s communities will be crucial in the plan’s development.
“The partnership is critical, and going forward we need to redouble our efforts to be sure we’re working hand-in-hand as we invest in things and plan things together,” Redeker said.
Malloy said plans for improving the state’s railroads are farthest along in development, and so they will be implemented first.
When he announced his plan, Malloy said that, over time, it would turn the New Haven line into a “modern rail service,” with reliable and frequent stops, and express regional service that riders can count on.
But despite suggestions by some that rail development should receive far more emphasis than road improvements, he said the ability to meet the needs of freight transportation can only be fulfilled by also expanding the capacity of the state’s highways.
Redeker said a “significant portion” of Interstate 95 – 75 to 80 percent – has sufficient right of way to install additional lanes. The Bridgeport-to-Stamford portion of the thruway is “most critical,” he said.
In response to a question, Redeker said the plan includes $750 million for the installation of walking and bicycle trails, including along the full length of the Merritt Parkway.
“There’s not a simple solution” to building along the parkway, he said, “but we’re going to keep pressing on.”
Malloy said that, in particular, he would like to see new trails that enable bicycles to travel off of busy roadways, and trails that connect towns and that enable people to walk from neighborhoods to downtown areas.