Higher fares, train service cuts could happen for New Canaan by July
NEW CANAAN — “What I have on my hands is a pending disaster if we don’t reverse the revenue side of the equation.”
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) Commissioner James Redeker stated such at a pre-legislative session meeting at New Canaan Town Hall along with Sen. Toni Boucher, R-26, Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-125 and Rep. Fred Wilms, R-142.
The CTDOT has proposed fare hikes of 10 percent and eliminating off-peak weekday and all weekend service for New Canaan if necessary revenue is not obtained. These measures could be implemented as soon as July.
“Without additional revenue, which is the legislature’s job and responsibility, we’re not able to sell bonds right now. We have to demonstrate a balanced transportation fund so that falls to me as the commissioner to find places to cut the budget or not to balance the fund to sell bonds,” Redeker said.
Redeker recognizes these proposals would have a deep impact in New Canaan, but a short-term solution in the state legislature could still be possible.
“This is a proposal to sell bonds but it’s certainly not a proposal I want to support from the impact perspective to both the system and projects. The legislature begins on Feb. 7 and they have to finish by May so we’ll know by then what will have to happen. If there was enough revenue, about $60 million, none of this would have to happen,” Redeker added.
Budget woes have been a concern ever since the state budget was passed in October of last year. On Jan. 10, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Redeker announced the indefinite postponement of projects statewide totaling $4.3 billion which included projects in New Canaan and surrounding towns.
The discussion of tolls as a long-term solution for additional revenue was brought up though it wouldn’t be a solution to the immediate problem concerning New Canaan. According to Redeker, about $650 million in revenues would be generated from tolls after four to five years of their implementation.
A “lockbox” proposal, a measure which would ensure that transportation funds are allocated solely to such, was also discussed as something that residents could vote for in the November elections.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan was in attendance. Around 50 people, a majority of them town residents attended the event. Various residents commented and asked questions about the potential implementation of the proposals.
Tucker Murphy, director of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, voiced concerns about the economic impact on the town. “A place like New Canaan relies heavily on the train system to get employees here, especially on the weekend. This would have such an impact on our town.”
Moynihan also made comments. “For the off-peak trains, high-income people come home late at night, and this would kill our economic pipeline. We depend on the train for workers to come on the weekends, this would have an incredible impact on our town, not to mention home values.”
Residents from other towns like Gloria Smithson, of Westport, attended the event. “I just want to hear about the current state of affairs because I’m worried about the financial health of our towns.”
Robin Bates-Mason, a New Canaan resident, opined on the outcome of the event. “I feel pretty good about the event but there will surely be an impact in the town if these proposals go through. I’m worried about branch service and the impact on real estate values and town employees.”