A state grant that would launch a barge service to carry truck trailers may soon improve transportation in Connecticut.
Part of a multi-million dollar initiative for transportation developments, the grant aims to decrease congestion on Interstate 95 by initiating the service in either Bridgeport or New Haven. Both cities have recently been vying for the implementation of the pilot program at their respective ports.
Judy Gott, executive director of the South Central Regional Council of Governments which serves New Haven and 15 surrounding towns, said the grant would help to purchase dock equipment such as cranes.
“The main concern is ‘will the feeder barge service take trucks off I-95?'” she said.
Gott added that the state is also examining the project’s economical and environmental impact.
Henry Fernandez, New Haven’s economic development administrator, said he believes the Elm City is the perfect location for the pilot program. New Haven, which has the largest port in the country without a port authority, is hoping to establish a port authority that would see high usage from the feeder barge program.
“Even if New Haven is not selected initially, our port can still grow and remain strong,” Fernandez said. “But any additional activity there is always great.”
Michael Piscitelli, director of comprehensive planning at the New Haven City Plan Department, said he feels the barge program would be beneficial if implemented in New Haven.
“New Haven cuts down the distance of highway travel,” he said.
He added that New Haven’s ability to provide rail access from New York and New Jersey to the markets of central Massachusetts and Rhode Island would also be advantageous.
Though some have argued that New Haven does not have the land for such a program, Piscitelli said this is a problem everywhere in Connecticut.
“It’s a matter of using land resources effectively,” he said.
Piscitelli added that neither Bridgeport or New Haven would likely be interested in their port serving as a stagnant storage facility.
Karyn Gilvarg, executive director of the City Plan Department, said she does not see either New Haven or Bridgeport as a “better” candidate for the grant.
“It’s not so much a question of better, because I think ultimately both ports will become feeder ports to the ports of New York and New Jersey,” she said.
She added that both cities put proposals in to Connecticut’s Transportation Strategy Board. She added that one of the Board’s objectives is to find a way to reduce congestion on the stretch of I-95 that runs between New York and New Haven.
Gilvarg said she thinks the grant only provides the initial dollars for jump-starting the program but it will not create competition between the two cities in the long run. But she said she feels New Haven is prepared to accommodate the program.
“We’re ready to go,” she said.