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Murphy discusses closing I-95 and reducing travel time for Connecticut commuters with Secretary Buttigieg

WASHINGTON-U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) spoke Thursday at a hearing of the U.S. Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies on President Biden's fiscal year 2025 budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation. In his questions to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Murphy drew attention to today's closure of I-95 in Norwalk and emphasized the importance of continued investment in the federal-state partnership program to modernize Connecticut's rail network and reduce commute times.

Murphy referred to the emergency closure of I-95 in Norwalk this morning and called on the minister to resolve the issue quickly and safely: “A large tanker fire occurred this morning on Interstate 95 near Exit 15 of the Fairfield Avenue overpass in Norwalk. No major injuries have been reported, but I-95 is currently closed and may remain closed for days depending on how quickly we can structurally maintain the bridge and understand the extent of the fuel leak. Initial estimates indicate that this tanker spilled 8,500 gallons of fuel and we must ensure that surrounding communities and watersheds are safe. I know you've already made a statement on this, but I just wanted to get your commitment that you're going to be working personally and with your staff throughout the day to make sure that we're assessing the damage and getting teams out there to take care of it “That the highway and the overpass are opened as safely as possible for commuters and residents.”

On the importance of maintaining federal investment in the Northeast Corridor to reduce commute times from Connecticut to New York, Murphy said: “It's obviously so annoying that Bridgeport is only 70 miles from New York, but it still takes an hour and 40 minutes by train to get into the city. In 2024 there is no reason that this should be the case… I guess what concerns me is continuing to look at accounts like the Fed-State Partnership like CRISI that continue to be underfunded compared to 2022 or 2023. I just want to make sure that we work with you to make sure that these numbers at least get back to the highs of the last 10 years and hopefully well beyond that so that we don't have any disruption in the momentum for the projects that we're doing, to one “To help communities like Bridgeport once the bipartisan infrastructure money runs out.”

He continued: “We were hoping that with this large allocation of federal money, states would make their own commitments. Connecticut has done this – the “Governor's Time for Connecticut” plan is about balancing federal investment with significant state investment to ultimately achieve a 25-minute change in travel time on the Metro North line from New Haven to New York , which would continue to change and grow New Haven. It’s even more important, as I mentioned, for even lower income communities like Bridgeport.”

A full transcript of his exchange with Buttigieg can be found below:

MURPHY: “Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Nice to see you, Mr. Secretary. First, let me point out an emergency situation in Connecticut that I believe you have already been informed of. A large tanker fire occurred this morning on Interstate 95 near Exit 15 of the Fairfield Avenue overpass in Norwalk. No major injuries have been reported, but I-95 is currently closed and may remain closed for days depending on how quickly we can structurally maintain the bridge and understand the extent of the fuel leak. Initial estimates indicate that this tanker spilled 8,500 gallons of fuel and we must ensure that surrounding communities and watersheds are safe. I know you've already made a statement on this, but I just wanted to get your commitment that you're going to be working personally and with your staff throughout the day to make sure that we're assessing the damage and getting teams out there to take care of it “That the highway and the overpass are opened as safely as possible for commuters and residents.”

BUTTIGIEG: “Absolutely. I spoke with Governor Lamont this morning and the Federal Highway Administration is pursuing this personally. Where appropriate, we will involve PHMSA in addressing any potential spills. And we will do everything we can to help everyone there get back to normal. We know, and have learned from our own experience, how important a smooth and normal journey on I-95 can be.”

MURPHY: “Good. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I wanted to stay in this part of my state for a second. In Stamford, Connecticut, the median income is about $47,000 per year. Not enough, but you can find a way to get through it. Just a few miles away in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the average income is $29,000 per year, which is simply not enough to make ends meet in a state with a relatively high cost of living like Connecticut. There are a variety of reasons for these differences, but the main reason is the distance to New York City, the driving economic engine for Fairfield County.

“It's obviously so annoying that Bridgeport is only 70 miles from New York, but it still takes an hour and 40 minutes by train to get into the city. In 2024 there is no reason this should be the case. The good news is that, through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we are finally providing proper money to be able to carry out bridge repairs, track extensions and general modernizations so that we can get down from 1:40 to maybe 1:25 in the next 10 years.

“But as you know, and Senator Coons has already asked you about Amtrak funding, once this large chunk of bipartisan infrastructure money is exhausted, we as a committee will look to fill the gaps. And I guess what concerns me is continuing to pay attention to accounts like the Fed-State Partnership or CRISI that continue to be underfunded relative to 2022 or 2023. I just want to make sure that we're working with you to make sure that these numbers at least get back to the highs of the last 10 years and hopefully well beyond that so that we don't have that disruption in the projects that we're working on “The momentum is coming. Try to help a community like Bridgeport once the bipartisan infrastructure money runs out.”

BUTTIGIEG: “Thank you very much, and I certainly agree that people perceive distance not in miles but in minutes. And we know we can do something about it by finally addressing the good status backlog and speeding things up on the Northeast Corridor. That is our goal with all the improvements promoted by the federal-state partnership, and we believe CRISI has a role to play here too. Of course, the $250 million requested here is in addition to the advance appropriations totaling about $1.2 billion, but of course the Fiscal Responsibility Act has forced us to make difficult decisions to make it all fit together . As you can imagine, the only person more enthusiastic than me is the President – I thought I was the biggest passenger rail enthusiast. And you can rest assured that this administration is deeply committed to improving travel times and reliability on the Northeast Corridor and all other passenger rail corridors in the United States.”

MURPHY: “Well, and listen, what we expected from this large appropriation of federal money is that the states would make their own commitments. Connecticut has done this – the “Governor's Time for Connecticut” plan is about balancing federal investment with significant state investment to ultimately achieve a 25-minute change in travel time on the Metro North line from New Haven to New York , which would continue to change and grow New Haven. It's even more important, as I mentioned, for even lower income communities like Bridgeport. Thank you for acknowledging that we need a plan to get these accounts back to the right level so that we can maintain this really important momentum. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

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Anna Harden

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