Photo courtesy of the DOT web site.

This is a press release from the nine Senate Democrats who voted against the nomination of DOT Commissioner Ralph Carpenter Wednesday, March 7.

Hoping to send a message about the lack of vision and direction in the state Department of Transportation – and to draw attention to the myriad, ongoing problems in Connecticut’s transportation system – nine of the 24 members of the Democratic State Senate Caucus today voted against the nomination of Ralph J. Carpenter by Gov. M. Jodi Rell as commissioner of the state Department of Transportation.

The senators – Thomas A. Colapietro (D-Bristol), Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport), Thomas P. Gaffey (D-Meriden), Edwin A. Gomes (D-Bridgeport), Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington), Andrew J. McDonald (D-Stamford), Ed Meyer (D-Guilford) and Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford) – voted against Carpenter’s nomination.

Commissioner Carpenter was ultimately confirmed by the Senate on a 25-9 vote, but not before some criticisms were leveled. The senators expressed concerns about how the DOT has handled issues regarding the Q-Bridge in New Haven, drainage work along a stretch of Interstate 84, the lack of adequate parking at some train stations, truck weigh stations, incomplete work on the Merritt Parkway, the slow pace of renovations to some Virginia rail cars, and a reluctance to release certain bid documents. 

“Those of us who are concerned about transportation in Connecticut have an enormous, pent-up frustration with the state Department of Transportation. There is a culture there that is crippling the state,” Sen. McDonald said. “That culture has to change, and unless we as a body send a message that we demand it, it won’t happen.” 

“The reason why I oppose this nomination is purely because of how the nomination was made,” said Sen. Duff. “Through this, we’re making a statement to the governor asking: Where was the national search? The bureaucracy of this department is tremendous. We need to send a loud message.”

Sen. Meyer said that while Mr. Carpenter has an “exceptional” record as a state police officer, his résumé is not strong on transportation experience. Sen. Meyer also noted that Carpenter’s move from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to the DOT is simply another in a series of “musical chairs” appointments by the governor.

“The practice has been one of ‘musical chairs’ – moving commissioners from one department to another in lieu of a national search. If ever there was a time for a national search, this is it,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to express the frustrations I’ve had with the DOT,” Sen. Slossberg said. “The opposition today is really to the ‘business as usual’ at the DOT. We can’t afford ‘business as usual.’”

“The DOT is among the most important departments with respect to the health of the economy of the state of Connecticut,” said Sen. Maynard. “While Mr. Carpenter is undoubtedly a good, decent individual with a long career in law enforcement, I do not believe his background qualifies him for this important role in state government.”