Lawmakers Call Federal Infrastructure Dollars ‘Transformational’

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson Photo credit: Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

Funds will also be used for water infrastructure and to create additional broadband access.

By Hugh McQuaid, CTNewsJunkie.com 

Standing on Hartford’s Union Station train platform Monday, the state’s congressional delegation called the weekend passage of a long-gestating $1 trillion infrastructure package a victory for Connecticut’s highway and rail systems as well as its construction workforce.

The U.S. House gave the massive spending bill final passage on a bipartisan vote early Saturday morning, nearly three months after it was approved by the Senate.

Most of the state’s congressional delegates spoke during the Monday morning press conference and framed the expected influx in funding as a generational investment that will support improvements to roads, bridges and rail lines as well as expansions of broadband internet and improvements to drinking water systems.

“In a state like Connecticut, with some of the oldest infrastructure in the country, [the funding] is going to be transformational,” Courtney said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney. Photo credit: Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

But exactly how much new federal support the state stands to gain from the $1.2 trillion bill was unclear Monday. According to members of the delegation, the bill will send nearly $5.4 billion to Connecticut through direct investments and increases to its federal funding formula. However, the state expects to compete for more than $100 billion in additional grants.

“Connecticut always does very well in those competitions, I just have to be honest with you,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said. “Connecticut generally fights above our weight class when it comes to competitive grant programs, so we think we will do incredibly well.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the legislation dedicates about $4 billion to roads and bridge projects, $1.3 billion for public transit projects, and $30 billion for Amtrak rail improvements in the northeast corridor. The lawmakers said the eventual improvements would shave a half hour off the rail commute from New Haven to New York.

Mark Rolfe, deputy commissioner of the Transportation Department, said the state was well-positioned to win grants for additional funding to help the department advance priority projects.

“We’ve been planning for this for months,” Rolfe said. The DOT hopes to use the potential new funds to expedite previously planned projects, he said. “We’re going to look to pull some of the projects that are in the out years and bring those forward.”

Deputy Transportation Commissioner Mark Rolfe. Photo credit: Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

Courtney said the funding will ensure that recently-begun repairs to the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in Groton are fully funded to completion. He said the bridge was currently in a worrisome condition.

“The condition of that bridge is something that now people are avoiding because of the concern that we all know exists there,” Courtney said. “It’s starting to happen right now. There’s work actually happening today on that bridge and what this bill does is make sure the other two phases of fixing that bridge are going to happen and they’re going to happen fast.”

According to U.S. Rep. John Larson’s office, the bill will also spend $445 million over five years on improvements to water infrastructure including replacing lead pipes still in service. It will dedicate at least $100 million in funding to Connecticut to upgrade broadband internet access.

“We saw that during the pandemic when there were parts of our state – not just the rural parts, but urban centers that did not have broadband access,” U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes said. “You cannot work and be competitive on any level at any job without having some access to broadband.”

The construction industry would like more specifics about what the state is planning.

Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said they need some lead time to get the proper equipment to get ready for these projects.

“We haven’t been working to capacity since 2008. Our employment numbers in Connecticut are less than they were in 1991,” Shubert said. “We are ready to get back to scale. Our employers are ready to go. And just with this news the momentum is already starting to begin.”

Members of the state’s construction unions joined the federal lawmakers on the train platform Monday and applauded the bill’s expected boon to their trade.

“Five billion dollars means a decade of work for decades of waiting,” Keith Brothers, president of the Connecticut State Building Trades Council, said. Brothers said the work would be done with Connecticut workers. “I will tell you this, if the building trades was on the stock market and you could buy stock, I’d buy it because this is our time.”

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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