STAMFORD, Conn. -- Standing before a pre-war bridge — a pre-Civil War bridge, that is — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy called on Congress to pass a transportation funding bill before the Highway Trust Fun runs out of money July 31.
"The consequence of the federal government ceasing to send transportation dollars to the states is catastrophic," Murphy said Monday in Stamford. "You many not see the impact overnight, but 70 percent of the major transportation projects that are done here in the state of Connecticut are funded with federal dollars."
Murphy (D-Conn.) was joined by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District), Stamford Mayor David Martin and state Rep. Terry Adams, D-146th District, at a press conference at the corner of South State Street and Greenwich Avenue. They gathered next to a bridge that was built in 1847 and has been deemed "structurally deficient" by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Highway Trust Fund provided more than $603 million for Connecticut projects last year, and the politicians said that more than half of the state's transportation funding could be cut off, costing Connecticut hundreds of millions in dollars and thousands of jobs.
Himes said safety has to be a top priority and that the government must ensure that roads and bridges do not pose a risk to the public.
"This is really very simple: If we continue to get this wrong, as have we have gotten it wrong for some time, we put the safety of our people at risk," Himes said, referring to the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge that killed three people on June 28, 1983. A 100-foot-long section of I-95 collapsed at 1:30 a.m. in Greenwich.
Murphy said he prefers to pass a long-term reauthorization of the law in order to allow states to plan for projects that might be years in the future.
He also said he's in favor of "a modest increase" in the gasoline tax to fund transportation improvements throughout the country. He said there are other means to pay for such work.
"Whatever we do we cannot afford to kick the can down the road," he said of the consequences of delaying the highway work.
Martin said transportation is vitally important for the economic health of Stamford, Connecticut and the U.S.
"Congress needs to pass a long-term transportation commitment rather than these short-term commitments," he said.