The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

James P. RePass - President & CEO
Phone:  617-269-5478

The Hon. John Robert Smith - Chairman

MA Office: 59 Gates Street, Boston, MA. 02127
CT Office, 8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT, 06355
RI Office, 35 Terminal Road, Suite 210, Providence, RI. 02905

Fax (CT): 860-536-5482

October 7, 2007

 

Leadership Forum on Transportation
and Infrastructure

“We Are All In This Together”

Massachusetts Lt. Gov Tim Murray, Chair


Connecticut State Senate President Donald E. Williams’
Remarks To The Leadership Forum On Transportation

 

From NCI’s Destination Freedom Weekly Newsletter
Vol. 8 No. 41 - October 15, 2007
See This Link For Additional Articles And Photos From The Event

 

I want to thank Lt. Governor Tim Murray and Jim RePass from the National Corridors Initiative for organizing this event, keeping the dialogue going on regional approaches to transportation challenges in the Northeast. We started this dialogue in Connecticut with a similar “summit” in April. We were thrilled by the turnout then, and we continue to be energized by the interest shown here today.

Since April, events have happened that have more intensely focused our nation’s attention on infrastructure. The Minneapolis bridge collapse put a spot light on the neglected roads and bridges throughout our country. It caused us all to scrutinize how our states approach transportation projects, and how we protect our citizens. But that tragedy also had another effect: it generated interest in the general public about finding a solution to our transportation crisis. The neglect of our infrastructure will not be tolerated anymore. We must make investments in our roads and bridges, but it can’t take away from our continuing investment into mass transit.

This meeting today will be about finding regional approaches to solutions. Our states, and provinces are not islands, we are not isolated in our own economic sphere. We are interconnected on an economic level, and in order to compete in this global economy, we must find a way to cooperate with each other to make our region more economically robust. A perfect place to start that cooperation is in transportation. Commerce doesn’t stop at our borders and neither should our transportation planning, and infrastructure.

As an example: From Connecticut’s perspective, we are changing our approach to commuter rail. Twenty years ago, the only focus was how to get workers in and out of New York City. Today, our focus is on mobilizing our work force. It’s about connectivity, not just to New York City, but from New York City into Connecticut. It’s about getting around our state, making all of our cities viable places to work. And it’s going to be about connectivity throughout the region.

I was encouraged this week to see our state Department of Transportation announce new services on our Shoreline East commuter rail. These new trains will offer so-called “reverse-commute” options for those looking to travel from western destinations, such as New Haven, into eastern Connecticut. This is something we have been pushing for years. There are some pretty startling statistics in Connecticut in terms of commuter rails. Reverse Commute is now becoming the norm. In fact, of the approximately 35 million passengers who use the New Haven Line of Metro-North, approximately 30 percent are reverse commuting into cities such as Stamford, Bridgeport and New Haven. The rate of new reverse commuters is outpacing other commuters by a 2-1 margin. It was estimated in 2006 that over 4,500 passengers are getting OFF the train in Stamford every morning.

With ridership increasing by double-digit percentages on our Shoreline East service, it is assumed that there is a growing market for reverse-commuters on this line. These reverse commute options now and in the future are not just from New York City into Connecticut, but from Boston into New Hampshire or Maine as well as Boston into Worcester or Providence. Our region can truly grow if we continue to encourage this connectivity throughout the region.

In the last two years we in the Connecticut Legislature have approved investing over $2 billion into mass transit that will bring our Metro North Railroad into the modern age, with new rail cars that will increase capacity, encourage ridership and help take cars off of our crowded highways. This money will also go to starting a new commuter line from New Haven to Springfield, which offers the promise of someday being a backbone service all the way to Canada. We have plans to continue to invest in our Shoreline East service, which will greatly improve service from New London all the way to New York City. Wouldn’t it be great if this service connected in the other direction to Providence?

It is my hope, and something that Lt. Gov. Murray and I have discussed, that this service connects to another new service from New London to Worcester. What a connected world this would lead to in Southern New England. Our workers could travel from Worcester to New London, or Providence to New Haven, or New London to Boston without having to use their cars and sit in traffic.

The time has come for us to not only think about these issues regionally, but cooperate as a region to tackle these issues. We need to think about the potential of some type of Northeast Rail Compact. If we could get together as a region and agree on a few fundamental issues regarding rail passenger service, all of our citizens would benefit. Coordination, shared costs and shared goals, all would be met by such a compact. Extending service beyond borders, such as we hope to do with our New Haven Springfield Line, Shoreline East service and in the future New London to Worcester Line, will be easy, convenient and efficient.

This new Northeast Rail Compact could also help us tackle some of the challenges to rail freight throughout the northeast. First and foremost might be in replacing a bridge across the Hudson River that would jumpstart freight rail throughout the northeast. Since the fire in 1974, lack of river crossings has sent freight rail into decline in our region. If we could pool our resources to address the challenges facing rail freight in the northeast, we could make significant improvements in traffic and pollution throughout the region.

An improved rail freight system would allow us to better access our deep water ports. In Connecticut we are fighting to improve access to our ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London. Better rail access to our ports could help economic development from Bridgeport, throughout Massachusetts and Maine, all the way to the Canadian Maritimes.

The bottom line is we need to get together as a region on these issues. In the global economy, we can’t afford to “go it alone” any longer. And the collective resources we all can bring to the table can make improving our economies more affordable than ever.


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