In nominating Garrett Eucalitto as Connecticut’s next Transportation Commissioner, Gov. Ned Lamont joked he was elevating a guy whose political pedigree included work for former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy – two of Lamont’s political rivals.
But in all seriousness, Lamont said Eucalitto was the perfect fit at this time because his background is on transportation finance strategy. Eucalitto will oversee a staff of 3,500 employees and has been given permission to hire about 206 people in the finance administration bureau.
He said they’ve already been talking about how to leverage the new funding as part of the infrastructure bill passed last November.
As part of that bill Connecticut has received $5.38 billion from the federal government for improvements. The money has been called transformational, but it’s not enough.
The federal funds will dedicate 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. On top of that Connecticut will be eligible to compete for another $100 billion in federal grants.
“Shame on us we don’t have the resources to take advantage of that,” Lamont said of the additional federal funding. “I’m leveraging that money four, five to one.”
Part of coming up with those matching funds will come from the Highway User Fee, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and is expected to raise about $90 million for the special transportation fund. Republican lawmakers have made unsuccessful attempts over the last year to erase the fee on heavy trucks.
“The governor’s proposal has put us on a solid footing for several years,” Eucalitto said. “Long-term 20 years from now the entire country is going to have to look at something else because of electric vehicles, but because of the highway use fee, because the governor and legislature have dedicated the motor vehicle sales tax and sales tax into the fund that’s kept us stable.”
He said he sees no reason to bring back a proposal for tolls that was defeated in 2019 during the governor’s first term.
As far as projects are concerned, Eucalitto said they have to address I-84 and I-91 through Hartford and that includes relocating Union Station, which has served as the rail and bus depot in the city for years. It was also the location for Wednesday’s announcement.
Eucalitto said other projects they are focused on are Route 691 and Route 15 and removing the stop lights on Route 9.
He added that they plan to work on the governor’s mission of tying job training to full-time employment and put more projects out on the street for the building trades.
“No one is more passionate about transportation equity, inclusion and roadway safety than Garett,” Outgoing Commissioner Joe Giulietti said of Eucalitto.
Giuletti said he would like to think he taught Eucalitto a thing or two about being a deputy commissioner “but the fact is taught me from the moment I met him at an NGA down in Washington.”
Prior to obtaining his current role, he was the transportation program director for the National Governors Association (NGA) in Washington, DC. In this capacity, he was responsible for assisting the nation’s 55 governors (states, territories, and commonwealths) in advancing their policy objectives in transportation, including combating impaired driving and improving safety on the roadways, the implementation of innovative financing tools, transit-oriented development, increasing electrification of the transportation sector, and reviewing autonomous vehicle legislation and regulations.
Lamont thanked Giulietti for his work over the past four years.
“As far as I’m concerned there are two guys in the history of rail that have made a difference: Casey Jones and Joe Giulietti,” Lamont quipped.
Giulietti said it was an honor of a lifetime to be Connecticut’s transportation commissioner.
“I love this work, the people, and the positive impact we have in communities around the state. I thank Governor Lamont for entrusting me with this responsibility. I’ve worked in transportation for more than 50 years, and no other job has been as rewarding,” Giulietti said.