State commission wants transportation funds used for transportation-related projects

The state Public Transportation Commission has made six recommendations its 2013 Annual Report, released Tuesday.

The Commission, an advisory body comprised of gubernatorial and legislative appointees, submitted the report to the governor, the Transportation Committee of the General Assembly and the Commissioner of Transportation. The recommendations are based on information from public hearings last year in Norwalk, Putnam, Bristol, Orange, New Milford, Enfield and New London and the commission’s 12 monthly meetings.

The recommendations are:

• That the state reserve all the monies directed to the Special Transportation Fund for transportation purposes. Transfer of Special Transportation Fund monies to the General Fund deprives state infrastructure and services of needed resources and also violates the trust that the fund’s supporting revenues and user fees will benefit the transportation services and facilities upon which those who pay the gas tax, gross receipts tax, fares and license and permit fees rely. In the longer term, the continued deferred investment in our transportation infrastructure will erode the state’s attractiveness and make it harder to compete with other states for businesses and residents, the report said.

• That funding for the inter-regional Coastal Link bus service, which operates along the Route 1 corridor between Norwalk and Milford, be made more secure. The service carries more than 4,000 passengers per weekday and more than 1.2 million passengers annually. The buses running this service are frequently at or above capacity with some occurrences where riders must be turned away.

• Continued support for the Department of Transportation’s decision to restore full funding to the State Matching Grant program which provides funding assistance to municipalities for the operation of dial-a-ride programs for elderly and disabled persons in over 130 Connecticut cities and towns. A 25 percent funding cut in the State’s 2011 budget had forced substantial reductions in service hours and levels in many towns.

• Continued support for the state Department of Transportation’s work to inform the public about the progress on and projected benefits of CTfastrak. A more vigorous and pro-active outreach effort for other high profile transit projects, especially those which may be prone to some level of controversy, may pay dividends in gaining public support for those projects.

• Cooperation with an on-going effort by the Housatonic Railroad to develop a privately-run, unsubsidized passenger rail service between Danbury and Pittsfield.

• That the state address a concern about the need for more local marketing and information about local bus services to assist existing users and encourage new ones.

Other topics covered in the report include: the increasing popularity of cycling and the resulting demand for more bicycle amenities and facilities; the desire of several smaller transit districts to implement designated bus stops to increase system visibility and assist their riders; the need for better communication on train platforms to alert riders as to which track an arriving train will be using; the increasing demand for inter-regional bus services; repeated accounts of train fares going uncollected; and the demand for bus and rail services that cross state boundaries.

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