Trains soon could link New Haven with Bradley International Airport, and tolls may replace tractor trailers on Interstate 95.
These travel options sample the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board’s Jan. 15 initial transportation strategy. The report is a preview of the state’s 10-year transportation plan, expected to be finalized by December.
The executive summary of the initial report describes the final transportation strategy as “a blueprint for a transportation system that will sustain our economic growth and enhance our quality of life during the first half of this century.”
“The initial strategy really created an outline for us to work with,” said Robert Hammersley, manager of the board. “The final strategy will be much more in depth and much more specific in regards to various projects.”
The 15-member board includes the commissioners of several state agencies, prominent businessmen and regional representatives.
The entire transportation master plan outlines $8 billion worth of potential projects for the 10-year period.
“We looked at the big picture, both in terms of regional transportation needs and long-term needs, and after the final report, the board will work to implement its recommendations,” said Oz Griebel, the board’s chairman.
Many of the board’s suggestions aim to reduce the strain on Connecticut’s highways. Possibilities include shifting freight trailers from I-95 to barges and improving commuter rail service.
Preparations for a feeder barge service will begin in March, in either Bridgeport or New Haven. The board will select the city by March 1, Hammersley said, with port construction expected to cost $1.5 million. A pilot program of the feeder barge service could begin as early as September.
New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez has said that the proximity of Interstate 91 to the New Haven Harbor makes the Elm City the ideal choice.
Water transportation also could provide an alternative route for passenger travel. The report recommends studying high-speed ferry service from Bridgeport or Stamford to New York City.
“Ferries, like other services, require studying the related costs and the feasibility of the program,” Griebel said.
A $1 million study to determine the practicality of providing commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., will be complete in March 2003. The plan could offer a rail spur connection to Bradley International Airport.
But new funding sources will be necessary for many of these improvements to occur. Currently, federal funds and bonding pay for the majority of the state’s transportation projects. The Connecticut Department of Transportation 2002 budget is $315.7 million.
Toll roads represent just one possibility for funding the board’s recommendations.
“It’s no secret that several states, several of which border Connecticut, use a toll system to pay for all or part of their transportation,” Hammersley said.
Hammersley said the state’s General Assembly and Gov. John Rowland will have the final say over which aspects of December’s final report are put into effect.