Sharlach proposes transit authority

Phil Sharlach of Wilton, who is running for Connecticut State Senate in the 26th District, submitted the following on transportation issues facing Connecticut.

“Traffic is overwhelming on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. Commuter rails rely on underfunded infrastructure. We lack freight rail. With traffic, the 45-minute commute between New York and Connecticut is one and one-half hours. Any additional congestion and traffic is a nightmare.

“As Fairfield County knows all too well, driving from Greenwich to New Haven is a huge inconvenience, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Copious trucks, lack of freight, and weak commuter rail infrastructure synergize to hold the economy back, slow job growth, reduce property values and pollute the air.

“Southwestern Connecticut has tremendous assets: a location near the financial capital of the world, a serene shoreline, top-notch schools for students and a highly educated workforce. People want to live here. People want to work here. The transit burden has held us back for years and is starting to feel normal to Southwestern Connecticut.

“Tax incentives to small businesses may be a part of the short-term fix, but over the long term, the state’s fundamental residents and businesses will struggle. Communities in southwestern Connecticut pay an exorbitant share of the tax dollars, but receive an order of magnitude less than government spending. Tax dollars should work for them, not against them.

“There is a viable solution that includes adequate funding to this problem. I propose the New York-Connecticut Transportation Authority. The NYCTA is an all-encompassing approach to resolve Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure crisis. The NYCTA will be an independent, non-governmental entity formed by New York State and Connecticut. Public and open market financing will be NYCTA’s source of capital. The operation would own, maintain and be responsible for surface modes of transit under NYCTA jurisdiction. This includes designated highways, bridges, tunnels, and commuter and freight rails.

“Freight rail is the most affordable way to move massive amounts of goods through the country. The aging track beds cannot handle freight trains because they are not up to today’s standards. The catenary wires and bridges are too low for double-stacked freight cars. Instead of using expensive trucks to carry goods across the state, freight rail will appeal to businesses as a lower cost and faster method of transportation. Commuters will save time on our highways immediately; money will be saved from reduced maintenance costs. Furthermore, freight rail is more environmentally friendly than trucking.

“Connecticut is at risk. Successful societies have functional transportation infrastructure. This affects everybody. In order to survive in a competitive national and global economy, the state needs to address transportation with a serious, long-term solution. I want to be part of a solution that says ‘yes’ to solutions, rather than sitting on the sidelines watching future generations struggle with the problems from our past.”