Bond Commission Approves Money For Rail Improvements
The state Bond Commission Friday approved tax obligation bond requests for $282.6 million in transportation projects, including $60 million for the double tracking of the Hartford rail line and $200 million to buy 60 rail cars for the New Haven line.
The money for the New Haven line will go towards purchasing nine new cafe cars and rehabilitation of the one existing cafe car.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said it was significant the money for the rail projects was approved the day after the “devastating accident’’ in New Jersey, where a train at the Hoboken station rammed into a passenger concourse during rush hour, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100 others.
“I want to assure Connecticut residents that we are closely monitoring what happened in New Jersey,’’ Malloy said at a press conference following the Bond Commission vote.
“We need to remain competitive when it comes to rail,’’ continued Malloy. “For too many decades we under invested in this area.’’
Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker said Connecticut will “closely monitor’’ the New Jersey train accident investigation. “We will implement changes if we learn something (from the accident).’’
Redeker said part of the Connecticut train system upgrade is to have the state’s train lines have “positive train control’’ systems in place by 2018, starting with the New Haven line, the most heavily traveled train line in the nation.
Redeker said New Jersey doesn’t have the positive train control system, an advanced system designed to automatically stop a train before accidents occur.
In addition to the train improvements, the state Bond Commission approved about $185.2 million in general obligation bonds Friday in total.
All the projects were approved with only one dissenting vote – that being cast by Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford.
Candelora said while he didn’t have specific objections to any of the projects approved for funding on Friday, “I am going to vote no on each one. We have to get allocations in line with our overall budget.”
By voting no, Candelora added, he was hoping to “send a message’’ to his fellow legislators that there is a need for a “stronger dialogue’’ in the upcoming legislative session in January about fiscal restraint.
Malloy told Candelora, “You can’t have it both ways,’’ stating he was making statements about not being opposed to project but voting against them at the same time.
Candelora is not a regular member of the Bond Commission. On Friday he was sitting in for Rep. Christopher Davis, R-East Windsor. Candelora served on the Bond Commission during former Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration and voted against most of the projects on her agenda too.
“I felt I had to be consistent because while governors have changed our borrowing practices haven’t,” Candelora said.
He said there are $6.5 billion projects approved but not funded.
“We need to slow this process down and take a look at it,” Candelora said.
Also approved by the Bond Commission were:
—$10 million for school safety and security improvements.
The state has already spent about $37 million to finance the hardening of school infrastructure in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December of 2012. The money was first authorized in 2013 and has been doled out school districts based on a competitive bidding process.
The improvements that qualify include the installation of surveillance cameras, penetration resistant vestibules, ballistic glass, solid core doors, double door access, computer-controlled electronic locks, entry door buzzer systems, scan card systems, panic alarms or other systems, the training of school personnel in the operation of maintenance of the security infrastructure of school buildings or the purchase of portable entrance security devices, including metal detector wands and screening machines and related training.
—Another $210.2 million special tax obligation bonds will pay for highway repairs under the state’s Fix-It-First program. It will also help pay for acquisition of property for bus and rail facilities, according to the agenda.
— $10 million for “regenerative medicine research,” $8.3 million to improve technology in several state agencies including the Department of Social Services and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
—$5 million in grants under the Manufacturing Assistance Act to Synchrony Bank in Stamford, which is one of the companies participating in the state’s Next Five Program, which gives economic incentives to companies that promise to create more than 200 jobs.
—$300,000 to finance capital improvements at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, site of the University of Connecticut home football games. The money would be used for concrete repairs to prevent water damage and utility upgrades in the parking lots of the stadium.
Back in March, Malloy said that plans to allow the state to borrow $2.7 billion this year. That’s up from the nearly $2.5 billion the state bonded in 2015.