Traffic on Interstate 84 Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie.com

Borrowing for transportation upgrades topped the State Bond Commission’s third and final meeting of the year Tuesday as the group approved $839 million to fund projects from road and bridge repairs to train stations.

Gov. Ned Lamont said the transportation upgrades funded by the approved bonding will complement other projects paid for by President Joe Biden’s infrastructure funding package, which was passed by Congress last month. 

“[W]e are about to enter a new era of transportation upgrades that will finally address some of our state’s most congested areas and transform our roads, bridges, rail, buses, ports, and airports into an efficient network that supports the needs of businesses and the people who live here,” Lamont said in a press release prior to the meeting.

Among the funding approved Tuesday was $61 million to improve the congested interchange in Meriden where Interstates 91 and 691 meet Route 15. 

The agenda included the first of two $30 million payments to support town repairs to local roads and more than $50 million for the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program, which will support projects in Darien, Hartford, Meriden, Putnam, and Trumble. Meanwhile, $13 million will help split the cost of bridge projects in 24 towns across the state. Another $12 million will fund grants for local projects to improve road and pedestrian safety. 

The commission approved funding for several rail-related initiatives including $280 million to replace aging diesel locomotives with new, “dual power” trains that can take advantage of electric train service where it is available. 

Another project approved Tuesday committed $35 million to construct a new train station in the Thompsonville section of Enfield, which will connect with the Hartford Line. The Lamont administration expects the funds will be matched with federal grant funding, according to a press release. 

In a separate statement last week, Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican, lauded the support for the long-planned station. 

Amtrak train (CTNewsJunkie File Photo)

“All aboard!” Kissel said. “What terrific news. This is the result of a decade of collaboration among town, state and federal officials. It will be a game-changer for Thompsonville.”

The group also approved $2.5 million in bonding for electric buses to replace some of CTtransit’s diesel buses. According to a press release, the state expects the federal government to match the investment with another $10 million in funds. 

Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said the projects funded by the bond commission position the state to secure more support from the more than $1 trillion infrastructure package. 

“The federal infrastructure bill is a game-changer, and the governor is making sure the cards are stacked in Connecticut’s favor,” Giulietti said in a statement. 

The commission also dedicated funding to a variety of economic development projects including $24.6 million to fund the second component of the Hartford Downtown Crossing project near Dunkin Donuts Park. The initiative includes building a parking garage and apartment building as well as renovating the Hartford Hilton building on Trumbull street. 

The Hartford Hilton in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Hartford Hilton in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Credit: File Photo / CTNewsJunkie

During the meeting, Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, said the hotel was in dire need of assistance and was barely sustaining itself on federal pandemic support, which was running out. He said a closure of the facility would impact other workers at other area facilities including the Connecticut Convention Center and the XL Center. 

“This project doesn’t stand alone. It really is a linchpin for many other things,” Freimuth said.

The bond commission also approved another $21 million for the Small Business Express Program, an Economic and Community Development initiative which gives financial assistance to small businesses. 

Other DECD projects $25 million will fund remediation projects at contaminated brownfields around the state and $25 million for the Connecticut Communities Challenge Grant Program, which the agency will award next year to projects to improve communities.