McKinney vs. Barnes: Apples & oranges, busway & bridges

Updated: June 13

Sen. John P. McKinney, a Republican candidate for governor, linked the state’s failure to maintain a Norwalk rail bridge Thursday to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision to greenlight construction of the Hartford to New Britain busway. The governor’s secretary of the policy and management, Ben Barnes, said the Senate minority leader was comparing apples to oranges.

McKinney:

“While the Governor pushes his half billion dollar ‘busway to nowhere’ commuters on Metro-North continue to suffer.  Every day rail commuters encounter crowded trains, broken bridges and delays. The dollars the Governor wasted on this busway could have solved those problems. Instead, this Governor chose to look the other way.”

Barnes:

 “Senator McKinney is either deliberately misleading people or he lacks even basic understanding of how the budget works.  Funding for CTFastrak could not have been used for any other project.  This administration faced a simple choice – build the busway or lose out on more than $450 million in federal dollars.

“Senator McKinney’s suggested approach – cancelling projects that are funded almost entirely with federal money – doesn’t make any sense.  It didn’t make sense in New Jersey, when Governor Christie walked away from over $8 billion of federal money in 2010 by cancelling a needed tunnel project that would have relieved traffic on the George Washington Bridge.  As with the fiasco in New Jersey, Senator McKinney is motivated by politics and is willing to turn his back on transportation improvements in order to score cheap political points.

“The truth is that the CTFastrak project includes $455 million in federal funds – 80% of the total cost.  We are completing this project at the same time that we are undertaking a number of very large projects, such as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge and the Moses Wheeler Bridge, and investing considerably in all our rail and highway infrastructure.  We can – and must – be able to maintain, modernize, and expand our transportation infrastructure all at the same time.

“Given that Connecticut already gets less back from the Federal Government than we contribute, walking away from CTFastrak or any project would be a shortsighted and ill-conceived decision that would have made Connecticut even less likely to get federal funding in the future.”

McKinney:

“Secretary Barnes couldn’t be more wrong. The only people deliberately misleading the people of the state are this Governor and his administration.

 “The busway was a choice. Governor Malloy could have asked the federal government to help us fix the broken Walk Bridge, but he did not.  Instead, he chose to take federal money for a project no one wanted.

“The state taxpayer investment in the busway — $112 million dollars — added to the $189 million this Governor diverted from the special transportation fund is more than $300 million in state, not federal funding. That is a massive amount of money that could have been used to fix critical transportation needs.

“What is more troubling about this most recent example is that this Governor can’t seem to budget responsibly. In addition to not being able to prioritize – this Governor doesn’t even know how much money is in the bank.  It was clear to me—and others within his Party—that given our financial problems the $55 tax rebates were not prudent or possible. Why wasn’t it clear him?”

CTFastrak is the formal name of the busway.

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