I've been waiting to have this conversation all week. What should the state do with the infrastructure money that's coming our way from the new Obama administration? Will we spend it only on "shovel-ready" projects that have languished for years? Or, is it best used as "big bang" money to completely change our built environment in the state. Tons of great ideas from our guests, Tom Condon of the Courant, Heather Brandon of the exceptional blog Urban Compass, and Jim Cameron of the commuter rail council and the Talking Transportation blog.
I admit, the morning took on a "rail heavy" tone - with talk about the New Haven to Springfield commuter line, high-speed rail from Hartford to New York, and rail connections in the Naugatuck Valley and from Hartford to Providence. This was not lost on emailer Ryan: The host of today's show sounded more like a lobbyist for locomotive industry then a reporter. He seemed to be pushing his own agenda by focusing soley on rail transportation. I think that it was unfair for the host and guests to attack Governor Rell because she addressed a comprehensive list of infrastructure projects rather then focusing on the host's pet transportation projects.
Yikes. I don't know that we were attacking as much as disagreeing, but...
His question is well taken, though. Are those of us enamored of big train projects overlooking other ideas? It seems certain that other states have squarely put their eggs in the light rail basket. In fact, yesterday's All Things Considered featured an interesting piece about the way the Northern Virginia sprawl-burbian nightmare that is Tyson's Corner could be completely remade, because of a direct rail connection.
Needless to say, it wasn't all about spending on big rail projects. We talked about wiring cities with fiber-optics and broadband access, about building affordable housing around transportation hubs (yeah, yeah...train stations) and moving freight by ferry...thus getting more trucks off the roads. We also got this idea from emailer John Shapland: Have there been any surveys on where people live who work in large work areas (such as Sikorsky Aircraft and the close-by Shelton and Trumbull business parks), and providing convenient and frequent buses to/from those work areas and where people live? Why not allow buses or large passenger vans to go down Route 15 from the large population centers of Hamden, North Haven, Wallingford, Meriden to Fairfield County? It's way too impractical to go down to New Haven, take the train, and then get back up north to Sikorsky/Shelton/Trumbull, etc.
At the end of the show, I guess I'm still left wondering - what's the big plan? Does Connecticut have a vision for it's transportation infrastructure? Might we be missing an opportunity with big federal dollars coming in? Keep the comments and emails coming...