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July 10, 2024

Lamont’s post-debate concerns prompted a call from Biden

MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG Gov. Ned Lamont promoted Biden infrastructure funding -- then fielded questions about the president's debate performance.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday celebrated the receipt of a $38.9 million grant made through one of President Joe Biden’s signature legislative achievements, then fielded questions about the president’s readiness to win and serve a second term.

Standing at a lectern bearing a Biden administration infrastructure logo, the Democratic governor disclosed that concerns he raised to the White House about the president last Wednesday prompted a call the next day from Biden.

“We just had a brief discussion about the campaign going forward,” Lamont said. Pressed if he expressed an opinion to Biden about quitting or continuing, Lamont offered no specifics and simply said, “We talked about the campaign.”

Lamont repeated a concern expressed Monday in an interview with The Connecticut Mirror: Biden, 81, remains on the defensive since his poor showing in his first debate this cycle with his 78-year-old opponent, Donald J. Trump.

But he defended the refusal of Biden to submit to a test of his cognitive abilities.

“I agree with him, what he said … ‘Every day, I am making decisions every day, I’m standing in front of the American people.’ All of a sudden everybody discovered he’s 81 years old. Really?” Lamont said. “So I think that’s a nonsense argument. I think watch the guy and make up your mind.”

The event at the New Britain terminus of the Hartford-New Britain rapid busway was one of the many regularly staged around the U.S., elements of the soft campaigning that translates Biden’s infrastructure funding wins into concrete benefits.

The $38.9 million competitive grant awarded by the Federal Transit Administration, plus $30 million in federal formula funds and $17 million in state dollars, essentially will electrify the CTfastrak busway by the end of 2027, scrubbing the environment of diesel noise and pollution.

“This is part of what our future is,” Lamont said. He thanked the FTA regional administrator, Peter Butler, who spoke at the event, and two men who were not: the president and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 

The $86.6 million project will replace diesel buses with 46 battery-electric buses, install 25 chargers in a Hartford depot and four on-route chargers at the station in New Britain.

It is a response to a state legislative mandate to shift the state’s transit bus fleet from diesel and diesel-hybrid buses to battery-electric vehicles over the next decade.

“This investment in our transit system marks a major milestone in Connecticut’s push to convert our entire fleet of public transit buses to zero-emission models by the year 2035,” said Garrett Eucalitto, the state transportation commissioner.

Lamont, Eucalitto and other speakers promoted the environmental and public health benefits of EV buses while standing at a lectern bearing one of the logos that must be displayed at projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, the American Rescue Plan or the CHIPS and Science Act. 

The font, colors, six stripes and three words on the microphone stand — INVESTING IN AMERICA — were prescribed in the 14 pages of signage and logo guidelines published by the Biden administration’s Office of Digital Strategy.

Infrastructure spending tends to be popular, even improvements to a project once maligned by John G. Rowland, a former Republican governor-turned-talk-radio host, as a “busway to nowhere.”

Erin Stewart, the Republican mayor of New Britain, begs to differ. The busway has inspired something of a building boom in her struggling city, attracting developers of apartments to sites within walking distance.

“It ended up working out great for us,” said Stewart, who took office in 2015 as the busway opened.

A new 80-unit apartment building stands on the site of the old police station, and a larger apartment building is under construction nearby, both offering short walks to the city’s downtown and the busway.

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