When Bruce Alexander ’65, vice president for New Haven and state affairs and campus development, received a community leadership award at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale in October, he challenged state officials to improve Connecticut transportation, especially train service from New Haven to New York City and expansion of Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport.

In return, Gov. M. Jodi Rell last month appointed Alexander chair of the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board, which manages transportation initiatives for the state. After 25 years as a senior executive of the real estate development corporation the Rouse Company, Alexander came to Yale in May 1998. He recently sat down with the News to discuss his new role and challenges facing the Transportation Strategy Board.

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Q. What will your role as chair of the Transportation Strategy Board entail?

A. It will be to offer suggestions about transportation strategy to the governor and legislature.

Q. How will you balance being an advocate for Yale with your state role?

A. In this case, I am an advocate for all the citizens of Connecticut, but issues important to New Haven and southern Connecticut have already been incorporated into the long-term transportation strategy plan.

Q. What are some of those issues?

A. They include enhanced train service to New York, Boston and Bradley airport in Hartford; supporting [Tweed New Haven Regional Airport]; and encouraging all modes of transportation that reduce highway congestion and air pollution. How these initiatives will be funded is of course the major concern in Connecticut as it is in states throughout the country.

Q. So how will they be funded, considering the state’s ongoing budget problems?

A. Well, first, close to $4 billion is needed for preservation projects even before any new initiatives necessary to support economic development are undertaken in the future. There are two main issues facing the state where the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board might be helpful. First, how will projects be funded? Second, because of the budget constraints, what might the principles be under which the governor and legislature decide which projects get priority?

Q. A majority of funds for state transportation projects comes from the federal government, right?

A. About two-thirds of the funds are provided by the federal government. This year, there will presumably be a reauthorization of the federal transportation act by Congress. So another task will be to help the state think about how it would like to impact federal legislation. I’ll give you an example: under the current act, tolls from federally-funded highways can currently be used only for the upkeep of those particular roads, instead of for mass transit or other transportation needs.

Q. So the state would like to see those funds used for other projects besides roads?

A. Well, some of us, but perhaps not the road builders.

Q. Tweed’s expansion seems to be well underway, and we’ve also seen new Metro-North rail cars and plans for a railroad from New Haven to Hartford. Where will we find the money for more new initiatives?

A. Stay tuned.