Route 7 project still on track — for now
ASML’s main entrance is at the intersection of Route 7 and Grumman Hill Road, an area long troubled by motor vehicle accidents. It is slated to be improved through a $2.8-million Department of Transportation project. Last month, Gov. Dannel Malloy added it to his list of transportation projects on hold because of a lack of state transportation funds.
When asked whether ASML’s expansion would change the fate of the project, Malloy said it was up to the state legislature to come up with an answer to declining transportation funds.
However, the governor cannot simply put a hold on the project. That’s because in addition to state funds, it will be paid for with federal funds. It is also listed on the state’s Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP).
When federal funds are involved, a region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO) plays a role. MPOs are federally designated areas with a population of 50,000 or more. Wilton is part of the South Western Metropolitan Planning Organization (SWRMPO).
“It operates as a check and balance,” Rob Sachnin, principal planner at the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG), told The Bulletin. For any substantial change to such a federal-aid transportation project — removing it, large increases or decreases in funding, or major delayings — federal law requires MPO concurrence before the change can be enacted, he said. The reason is that federal law requires that the state’s and the MPO’s TIPs match.
The TIP lists all projects scheduled to receive federal funding over the next four years. To add or delete a project is a TIP amendment, Sachnin said, and for that to happen both the state and the MPO have to agree to make the change. The state may request a change, but may not act without the MPO.
As of Tuesday, Sachnin said, the state Department of Transportation had not submitted a request to remove or substantially modify the Route 7/Grumman Hill Road project.
“The only thing we have is the press release with the list of projects to be postponed,” Sachnin said. “We have not received a request to remove or substantially modify it.”
The SWRMPO encompasses Wilton, Weston, Westport, New Canaan, Norwalk, Darien, Greenwich, and Stamford. Its members are the chief elected officers of each town as well as a representative from Norwalk Transit. The state also has a seat, but in a non-voting capacity.
The staff of WestCOG also serves as staff to SWRMPO.