[Update 12/31: Gov. Rell has announced that the NHHS rail money will be on the agenda of the Bond Commission’s January 8 meeting.]
The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line was on the agenda at the November meeting of the Connecticut Bond Commission. But the commission failed to release $6 million for design and survey work as well as $20 million in funds towards double tracking the line, which will improve local, regional, and national service. If this wasn’t bad enough, the cancellation of the Commission’s December meeting effectively puts off any future allocation for the project until late January.
These events sent shivers down the spines of the project’s advocates. That’s because the last-minute withdrawal of NHHS bond money, the result of a political power play between Governor Rell and Senate Democrats, could end up costing the State much more than $26 million.
The real cost could be millions of federal dollars and Connecticut’s reputation.
The failure to release this money in a timely manner continues to diminish Connecticut’s attractiveness as a candidate for High Speed Rail funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
While Connecticut’s elected officials have expressed public support for this project, the absence of political will at a critical time is disappointing to the advocacy community who supports this investment — a community that includes business, labor, transportation, environmental, housing and planning organizations.
Luckily the federal government hasn’t given up on Connecticut just yet. The recent spending omnibus bill that passed Congress this past Sunday included $3.9 million for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line. However, unless Connecticut shows some good faith, it could miss out on future funding opportunities like the possible federal “Jobs Bill,” which the Senate is expected to debate in mid-January.
The Governor and the General Assembly need to put politics aside, at least on January 29th, the date of the next State Bond Commission meeting, and release the NHHS rail funding.