Federal infrastructure spending of nearly $1 trillion would bring billions of dollars to Connecticut for highway construction, bridge repairs, electric vehicle charging stations and more, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy said Tuesday.
The 69-30 bipartisan vote Tuesday sends the first phase of President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" priorities to the House.
Blumenthal said Connecticut can expect "hundreds of ribbon-cuttings" on projects made possible by $3.5 billion in federal highway funding and $561 million for bridge replacement over five years, $53 million to expand a network of electric vehicle charging stations, also over five years, $1 billion to communities to improve resiliency against storms and $106 million to protect the Long Island Sound watershed.
In addition, the state can expect $1.3 billion over five years to improve public transportation and a minimum of $100 million to expand broadband coverage, including access to 27,000 residents without it.
Blumenthal and Murphy, who are enthusiastic supporters, said the massive legislation, detailed in a 2,700-page document, will tackle climate change, improve competitiveness with China and other nations, speed commutes for workers, upgrade airports and bring other improvements.
"It's a big win for Connecticut," Murphy said on an online news conference. "We rely on transportation more than any other state in the nation, arguably."
A portion of federal spending will be targeted to increase train speed from New Haven to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Travel time, which has slowed over the decades due to aging equipment and systems, is about two hours.
Metro-North Railroad’s speed, or lack of it, frustrates commuters and Connecticut’s public officials who want a shorter trip that would tie Connecticut more closely to New York City’s powerhouse economy and spur economic development.
State Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti, who appeared with Blumenthal and Murphy, said federal spending makes funding available to improve travel speeds and repair deficiencies and improve commuter connections. State bonding and user fees will make Connecticut "ready to meet the obligations" to match federal funding, he said.
Metro-North is changing schedules to allow express trains, completing by the end of the year positive train control systems intended to prevent collisions between trains, installing signal systems to run additional trains and removing speed restrictions.
As a result, train speeds between New Haven and Grand Central will begin to get shorter in 10-minute increments starting next year, Giulietti said.
The two Democratic senators defended the size of the infrastructure measure, which the Congressional Budget Office said will add $256 billion to federal deficits over 10 years.
"I think it makes all the sense in the world to amortize the costs of infrastructure over time," Murphy said. "The payoff to an economy or to a federal or state government from infrastructure improvements don’t all arrive in the first or second year."
Blumenthal, who said the Congressional Budget Office estimate is disputed, compared public works spending to building a home or adding to a manufacturing plant. "It pays in the long run," he said.