Connecticut officials urged Wednesday the House passage of an infrastructure bill approved in the Senate last week, citing the job growth and state transportation improvements expected to be funded under the bipartisan package.
“The bill means more to Connecticut than just about any state in the country,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday at a press conference. “We do have really aging infrastructure.”
The $1 trillion infrastructure deal was negotiated with the Biden administration and passed in the Senate last week on a bipartisan vote. It is awaiting action in the House where Democrats are expected to approve it. The bill includes more than $5.38 billion to fund improvements to Connecticut’s transportation system and the state is eligible to compete for more than $100 billion in additional grants.
During the press conference outside the Construction and General Laborers Local Union offices in Hartford, officials compared the initiative to the New Deal, both in terms of the projects it would fund and the construction jobs it would help to create.
“For me, it’s a once in a generation opportunity to replace hundred year old aging bridges on one of the nation’s oldest and busiest passenger railroad and highway sections in this country,” Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti said. “The Senate passage of this bipartisan infrastructure bill is historic and transformative.”
Giulietti and Lamont pointed to some specific projects they hoped to fund with the new influx of federal cash: shoring up bridges to speed rail travel from Hartford to New Haven and New York, adding lanes to ease a handful choke points on Connecticut’s highways. For instance, I-84 between Exit 3 and Exit 8, the intersection of I-91 and the Merritt Parkway, I-95 North in Stamford.
“[Former Governor] Dan Malloy did it with the Charter Oak Bridge. You’re going to see what a difference that makes,” Lamont said. “What we’ve got to do is 691, I-95 what that means in terms of Meriden, coming up into Hartford and back again at the end of the day. These are investments that make an extraordinary difference for the future prosperity of this state.”
Because of the state’s location between the metropolitan hubs of New York and Boston, Connecticut’s economy is uniquely tied to its transportation infrastructure, Murphy said.
“Whether we like it or not, Connecticut is more dependent on federal infrastructure dollars than almost any other state in the nation,” Murphy said. “Our economy grows when we can get people and goods faster to places like Boston and New York. Companies want to locate here to Connecticut.”
With funding for projects and job training, construction workers groups said the package was poised to create nearly one million jobs over the next decade. Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said that for thousands of workers those jobs would result in long term careers.
“We always talk about construction jobs, but when you have a long term measure like this — this is a launching pad for careers for construction workers,” Shubert said.
The governor, who has had difficulty drumming up support to raise revenue for supporting transportation improvements, took the opportunity to remind residents that some federal funding may be contingent on Connecticut’s ability to demonstrate it can support its Special Transportation Fund.
“I don’t mean to be boring but we gotta put up our 20% in many of these cases,” Lamont said. “How we do that is making sure we’re at the front of the line I can show … Secretary of Transportation Pete [Buttigege] we are at the front of the line, we’ve got the way to pay for it.”
Although Blumenthal called the bill’s passage through the Senate a “magic moment,” he said it still needed approval by the House.
“We need to get it done. It’s not a layup,” Blumenthal said. “It’s not a done deal until it passes the House of Representatives.”