GREENWICH, Conn. – Legislators from Greenwich met with other Fairfield County leaders recently to discuss local transportation issues that have far-reaching effects on the statewide economy, including rail improvements and grants to support local projects.
State lawmakers who represent the communities in Southwestern Regional Planning Agency, or SWRPA, say it will be difficult for the legislature to tackle rail, bus and mass transit projects when Connecticut continues to suffer from budget and deficit problems.
State Reps. Livvy Floren and Lile Gibbons, both Republicans, joined state Sen. L. Scott Frantz at the agency's annual legislative briefing at Norwalk City Hall on Friday. State legislators spoke with mayors, first selectmen and town planners as well as the agency's Board of Directors.
"I appreciate these opportunities to hear directly from our cities and towns," Floren said. "It is interesting to see how Hartford-created policies impact those who must enforce the laws each and every day."
Those from smaller Lower Fairfield County towns expressed frustration that agencies use only population totals when determining whether projects are worthwhile. Smaller towns are ignored because of smaller "population-served" numbers.
"The problem seems to lie more with administrative issues and communication lapses when it comes to the conflicts towns face with getting projects off the ground," Gibbons said. "If there are available funds, department leadership should see that the money is put to good use and not held hostage due to vague regulations."
A number of concerns were raised by local leaders, including inaccessible silos of money, which the Department of Transportation could act upon without the interference from the legislature and unfair personal liability risks placed on zoning enforcement officers.
"I am deeply supportive of making smart investments in transportation infrastructure," said Frantz, a Republican. "I believe that the New Canaan and Danbury (train) branch line projects are essential to bringing economic development to the area, and I will be seriously considering many proposals during this year's legislative session."