Congressmen: Connecticut High-Speed Rail Still On Track
Republican Congress Slams National Fast-Train Plan
April 15, 2011
New Republican-driven federal budget cuts have severely damaged the Obama administration's high-speed rail plan, but Congressional leaders still say the Northeast Corridor project — including Connecticut's line — is viable.
They acknowledge, though, that the race for the shrinking pot of money has grown more urgent. Most of the Congressional delegations from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont jointly wrote Thursday to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to press their campaign to get $227 million for Connecticut's Springfield-to-New Haven project.
"We should get what we can now," U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said Thursday.
Connecticut wants $227 million of $2 billion that LaHood will award this spring. Twenty-three other states, Amtrak and the District of Columbia all are competing for a share of that money.
"I feel confident about this. Connecticut has more skin in the game proportionately than any other state in the nation, and that's important to this administration," Larson said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., acknowledged that the Republican cuts mean there's money on the table, but that the delegation and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will push harder to get the state a substantial share.
"I will fight for Connecticut's full request. I remain confident that the U.S. Department of Transportation will recognize the compelling merits of Connecticut's program," Blumenthal said.
Republicans in Congress this week cut $1 billion in high-speed train grants from the current federal budget, stranding, at least temporarily, dozens of states that already have begun planning or design work. Most have counted on competing for a steady flow of federal grants over the next several years to build fast-train lines, but the tea party wing of the GOP wants to cut off funding altogether.
Part of this week's budget deal also chops $400 million from the extra $2.4 billion that became available this winter when Florida's new Republican governor scuttled his state's project and rejected its federal aid.
Other states — including those along Amtrak's heavily used Northeast Corridor route — saw that as a potential windfall, since LaHood immediately pledged to route the $2.4 billion to states still committed to rail projects.
The letter to LaHood promotes the Connecticut project as one that can be built quickly, becoming a model for the nation. The letter was signed by the entire delegations of Vermont and Connecticut. Missing are the names of four Massachusetts' congressmen, who are all Democrats, and Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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