Posted on Monday, December 1 2008 by Heather Brandon
An editorial in today’s Hartford Business Journal notes an urgency for business leaders in the area to “get cracking immediately on a detailed list of infrastructure priorities.” The piece cites Barack Obama’s pending job creation effort to invest heavily in infrastructure projects. Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell issued a press release last Friday noting that such potential projects in the state should be shovel-ready in anticipation of the federal assistance.
Rell is meeting with Obama, along with other governors, tomorrow in Philadelphia (see her press release on the subject). She will argue that the federal government should cover the infrastructure projects completely rather than asking the state to pitch in 20 percent, referring to a high level of need along with lacking funds.
In her release, Rell said, “The nation’s governors have already identified the national transportation system as a top priority for investment. It truly is the lifeblood of our economy for Connecticut and across the country. The jobs these investments will create will help us rebuild both our highway and rail systems and our economy.”
Some such local projects came to light during a November 21 meeting between Senator Chris Dodd (pictured) and various local officials in Enfield.
James Bailey Brislin of the Enfield-based Carpet City Chronicle documented the affair, which placed much focus on the multimodal transit center planned for the Thompsonville area of Enfield (pictured). The center is part of a revitalization plan (see also Voices for Thompsonville and Thompsonville Action Group), and hinges significantly on the commuter rail project in the works linking Springfield, Hartford and New Haven. From the piece:
According to Dodd, Congress plans to utilize a bottom-up approach that concentrates infrastructure funding on local government projects, like the multi-modal transportation center.
Dodd also pointed just north of the Connecticut border to East Longmeadow and Longmeadow, saying the towns ought to rally more advocacy for the rail project, particularly as a regional issue. Rebecca Townsend noted in the comments, “That’s what the Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail are trying to do.”
Similarly, the Business Journal urged decision-makers not to “indulge in pork barrel projects,” but rather come up with “appropriate, forward looking ideas” based on regional need and not favoritism:
It will be important that the region speak with one voice about its needs. Balkanized, haphazard proposals will not be as compelling to those in the new administration who are weighing requests from across the country. And it would be a mistake to view this as an opportunity to indulge in pork barrel projects that serve a narrow constituency but are unlikely to pay long-term dividends for the region.
When it comes to infrastructure, there are plenty of voices to the north as well as south of the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line clamoring to get projects underway to benefit the economy.
Illustrating the need to cross the border to build support and gain input, the Connecticut Department of Transportation is holding a public hearing in Springfield on Monday, December 8, 6:00 pm at the TD Banknorth Conference Center, 1441 Main Street downtown. The hearing is related to the preparation of an environmental assessment for the proposed north-south commuter rail line.
Downtown Springfield resident Mike Tuckey suggested the Hartford job market might become more open to people in Springfield with a commuter rail link available between the two cities, among other benefits. From his post:
Hartford is estimated to have ten times as many employment opportunites than Springfield. The average train trip to Hartford would take about one half hour for someone in Springfield. A commuter rail link to Hartford would open up the Hartford job market to all those in Springfield, who can not now afford to purchase a car, the “working poor.”
Most rail stations are located in downtown locations. We are all aware of the difficulties faced by northeastern downtowns. Rail transportation would put new, out of town people on our downtown streets every day.
Lastly, on a similar but different subject, and as Carol Coletta pointed out in a post yesterday at CEOs for Cities, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter introduced a bill last week called the High Speed Rail for America Act (PDF). According to a press release from Kerry’s office, the bill could raise $23.4 billion for high speed rail projects:
Specifically, the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 provides $8 billion over a six-year period for tax-exempt bonds which finance high-speed rail projects which reach a speed of at least 110 miles per hour.
It creates a new category of tax-credit bonds – qualified rail bonds. There are two types of qualified rail bonds: super high-speed intercity rail facility bond and rail infrastructure bond. Super high-speed rail intercity facility bonds will encourage the development of true high-speed rail. The legislation provides $10 billion for these bonds over a ten-year period. This would help finance the California proposed corridor and make needed improvements to the Northeast corridor.
The legislation provides $5.4 billion over a six-year period for rail infrastructure bonds. The Federal Rail[road] Administration has already designated ten rail corridors that these bonds could help fund, including connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago, connecting the cities of the Northwest, connecting the major cities within Texas and Florida, and connecting all the cities up and down the East Coast.