March 20, 2019

A bridge too far (gone)

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Gov. Ned Lamont at the Devon Bridge in Milford on Monday.

Gov. Ned Lamont and a group of transportation advocates gathered near the Devon Bridge in Milford Monday to call for increased investments in the state's transportation infrastructure. The 114-year-old rail bridge over the Housatonic River is widely acknowledged to be in need of replacement and has long passed its planned lifespan.

The bridge is on the Metro-North New Haven Line and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. It allows some 150 trains per day to travel over the Housatonic River between Milford and Stratford. Opened in 1905, it is rated as structurally deficient and in serious condition.

Recent inspections have shown that the steel span has widespread rust and corrosion. Last year, emergency work needed to be performed on the bridge's three high towers, which hold overhead railroad signal and power cables, in order to stabilize them.

The state's Department of Transportation (DOT) says that a major rehabilitation or replacement of the structure will be required in the near future.

"Connecticut is home to the most heavily used commuter rail line in the nation, which thousands of people depend on every day for their commutes to work," Lamont said. "We have an aging infrastructure in Connecticut that greatly impacts the daily lives of our families and the development of our businesses. Modernizing our infrastructure would employ thousands — it would improve the quality for our residents and advance us towards the state we deserve to be."

Gasoline taxes serve as the primary source of funding for the state's transportation system. But as many consumers switch to electric vehicles, state gasoline taxes are generating fewer dollars.

Lamont said that he does not support raising the gasoline tax, which he believes is already too high, nor the use of "priority bonding" that would borrow to support transportation funding and add to the state's debt. Instead he has advanced plans to return tolling to Connecticut highways, proposals that are presently being considered by the General Assembly.

The New Haven Line is the busiest commuter rail line in the United States, and its ridership continues to climb. In 2016, it hit a peak with a total of 40.5 million passenger trips during the year.

Contact Michael C. Bingham at mbingham@newhavenbiz.com

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