Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
Guilford Train Station (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

GUILFORD, CT—A bipartisan group of shoreline state legislators and first selectman held a press conference at the Guilford train station Wednesday to oppose proposed cuts by the Department of Transportation to the Shore Line East commuter rail line.

The group, organized by State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, came together after the Department of Transportation announced they would be eliminating weekend and off-peak train service starting on July 1.

“For over 25 years Shore Line East has been a tremendous asset to our constituents and communities,” Scanlon said. “People in 2018 want reliable public transportation options besides sitting in traffic on I-95 and almost every town on the route is currently working on economic development surrounding transit oriented development.”

In announcing the cutbacks, the state said they are necessary due to an estimated $60 million budget shortfall for transit and rail accounts. 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a seven cent increase in the gas tax, a $3 fee on tires, and establishment of tolls Wednesday to help avoid the cancellation of $4.3 billion in road construction projects and the need to increase rail and bus fares.

The Department of Transportation added that any service and fare changes are subject to public input and contingent on action by the General Assembly to ensure the long-term solvency of the Special Transportation Fund, which is supported by the gasoline tax and other revenues, and pays for DOT operations.

Scanlon said everything, including gas taxes and tolls, needs to be looked at if that’s what it takes to restore full Shore Line East service.

“Both ideas need to be on the table as we try and determine how best to navigate the perfect storm we face right now with regard to an aging transportation infrastructure and a rapidly depleting Special Transportation Fund thanks to over-reliance on the gas tax at a time when cars are becoming more fuel efficient and the price of oil is low,” Scanlon said.

But it’s unlikely everyone agrees.

Republicans legislative leaders, including Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, who attended the press conference Wednesday said he doesn’t think the two are connected.

He said the state needs to look at planning first before discussing revenue.

Republicans have said the state can just better prioritize the borrowing it does for transportation improvements and find the money that way.

“People depend on reliable transportation options and these cuts hinder that,” Candelora said.

“We need a much more innovative way to manage our economic crisis – and this isn’t it.”

Malloy, who is in his last year of office, has been critical of the Republican proposal to solve the transportation funding crisis.

“One of the biggest challenges facing our state is the decades-long refusal to invest in our roads, bridges, tunnels, and rail,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said earlier this week. “Yet, perplexingly, the Republican leaders’ solution is to further slash our transportation investment. This ill-conceived GOP plan would undermine Connecticut’s ability to compete with neighboring states and directly harm the state’s economy.”

Referring to the press conference in Guilford Wednesday Malloy said “there’s wide support for transportation,” even if there’s not agreement on how to fund it.