Boucher says there will be no rail service cuts, fare hikes
NEW CANAAN — Train service will remain active in town according to Sen. Toni Boucher, R-26.
“Democrat and Republican alternative budgets, though not the same, all include the return of the service and the reduction of any cost increases on the part of commuters,” Boucher said at a roundtable discussion hosted by Sen. Chris Murphy (D) at Town Hall Monday morning.
“At the end of the day, one of those budgets is going to get passed or a compromise of the two,” Boucher added.
Earlier this year, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) had proposed fare hikes of 10 percent and eliminating off-peak weekday and all weekend service for the New Canaan, Shoreline East, Danbury and Waterbury branches if necessary revenue was not obtained to balance the transportation fund.
The 2018 legislative convened Feb. 7 and adjourns May 9th but can go into special session if a budget plan requires more time.
Democrats and Republicans pitched their budget proposals last Friday regarding the nearly $20 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Following debate, the state’s legislature budget committee voted that same day to send the Democratic budget to the House floor in a party line vote where only House members were allowed to vote.
When asked about revenue sources, Boucher said that tolls are “off the table” and that a “lockbox” proposal, a measure which would ensure that transportation funds are allocated solely to such, would also be on the ballot in November.
“There are many other alternatives that have been suggested that don’t have to go to the way of a seven cent gas tax, that’s Gov. Dan Malloy’s proposal,” Boucher said. “We all support a lockbox but so many of those proposals have an escape clause in it.”
When reached for comment, CTDOT Director of Communications Judd Everhart said that “until the General Assembly takes action on a budget for the year beginning July 1, the Department of Transportation has no choice but to proceed forward and implement the fare increases and service reductions effective on that date.”
Sen. Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hosted the event to listen to local business owners and lawmakers regarding the proposed CTDOT service cuts and fare hikes.
Though Murphy brought up the federal government’s efforts to address infrastructure and transportation, attendees wanted to focus specifically on problems closer to home.
“On the weekends, tourism is big here and a lot of people come from New York City to come visit and cuts would impact that as well,” Michael Chen, an alternate member on the Board of Finance, said.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan expressed his satisfaction regarding Boucher’s announcement but noted that a long-term solution has yet to be established.
“We’re very happy to learn from State Senator Boucher that the State Assembly will not allow the threatened Metro North service cuts and fare increases to go into effect,” Moynihan said via email after the discussion. “However, long term solutions are still needed to improve service on the New Canaan branch line and for other transportation improvements in Fairfield County.”