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Paucity of Funds Postpones Projects

While modest repairs can be made over the next few years, more expensive and controversial projects will have to be put on hold.

Because of scarce funds, modest improvements rather than an extreme makeover will define Fairfield County’s s projects in the coming years.

“Bridge work and safety projects are a big concern…during this time of scarce funds they took the expedient route. It does seem like the smaller town projects have been set aside however,” said state Sen. Toni Boucher, a sits on the Transportation Committee and represents Bethel, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton in the 26th Senate District.

The South Western Regional Planning Agency, SWRPA, and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said they aim to finish $1.6 billion in transportation projects during the next four years. However, they still need $135 million for various highway and road projects; monies that remain unavailable.

As such projects to upgrade the state’s infrastructure should be the main course, the committee members said.

“We need to be sure to address repair of any bridges or roads that are unsafe,” said state .

The Transportation Improvement Program, also known as the TIP, is a listing of all federally funded transportation projects in the South Western region. The projects in the TIP are expected to receive federal transportation funds over the given four-year period. The TIP is adjusted depending on project and funding changes. The draft version of the plan was released in December.

The projects included in the TIP have been developed through a collaborative planning process and are identified in the Region’s Long Range Transportation Plan. However, for now the more expensive and controversial projects will be put on hold. Instead there’s an emphasis on "must do" projects including transit and ADA compliance for the major cities of Stamford and Norwalk.

“Since we are very short on funds of any type, I'd say that we must prioritize safety first, and after that anything that can reduce congestion and excessive use of fuel,” Lavielle said.

Lavielle, who represents Norwalk and Wilton in the 143rd House District, said if she she’d most like to see the New Haven Line modernized and its infrastructure upgraded.

“We learned last year that the age and infirmity of the infrastructure not only causes service problems, but also poses real risks to passenger safety,” Lavielle said. “With 37 million passenger rides a year, that's a big risk, and we need to reduce it as quickly as possible. The condition of the line is unacceptable.”

In addition, Lavielle said, “the Danbury Line signal system upgrade needs to be completed and this is being addressed, so nothing should stop it or slow it down.”

Boucher said she’d have liked to see certain projects on the list, including the parking garage in Wilton, Interchange completion on the Route 7 connector and widening at Grist Mill.

However, those projects, while convenient “have those that might fight them,” she said, referring to potential controversy.

In addition, projects that reduce congestion, like the planned work on I-95 work is planned on two Norwalk exits, and work on the Route 7/Merritt interchange and the Stamford Transportation Center are also favored.

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