MERIDEN — With the triangle of interchanging on-ramps and off-ramps of interstates 691 and 91 and Route 15 as his backdrop Monday morning, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal portrayed President Biden’s American Jobs Plan as a proposal that offers a solution to alleviate traffic woes, including congestion and crashes, that have long plagued the roadways.
Blumenthal, joined by Mayor Kevin Scarpati, as well as state transportation and construction officials, said all were gathered for a common purpose.
“We’re here to say, ‘We’re gonna fight for better transportation in the state of Connecticut,’” Blumenthal said. “We’re gonna fight to eliminate the choke points and the bottlenecks that create accidents and cost time and money to the people of Connecticut.
“We’re gonna repave our roads, rebuild our bridges, make sure that our transportation system in Connecticut is second to none — and we’re going to do it without new taxes and new tolls,” he continued. “We’re going to do it because the federal government owes us a real infrastructure program that invests in America and creates good jobs for the construction trades and all workers who want be employed...”
According to a description from the White House, the Biden administration has proposed $115 billion in new spending toward modernizing bridges, highways, roads and streets.
Officials said the first phase of the Meriden project could begin as soon as 2022. Scarpati described safe and efficient transportation as an integral part of economic development not just in his city but “far beyond” the city limits.
Joe Giulietti, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, promised a judicious approach to improving the highway interchanges.
“We want to be good stewards of the public’s money…” Giulietti said, describing possible lane additions and double lane exits as measures that could reduce travel time during morning and evening commutes. Hope for jobs
Industry leaders are hopeful the proposed investment will lead to good paying jobs.
Connecticut Construction Industries Association President Don Shubert said there are 248 bridges and 2,100 miles of road “poor condition.”
“At the same time, there’s 18 percent less construction jobs than there were in 1990. It doesn’t add up. And it’s time to change the equation,” Shubert said.
Winsted resident Amanda Root was part of the Iron Workers Local 15 union’s apprenticeship program. She said the trade has given her financial security, including health insurance and a retirement plan, that she likely would not otherwise have had.
Root said she and other construction workers want to be able to do clean construction, while also earning sustainable and livable wages.
“I hope we can pass this Senate bill to be able to work clean and support our families and our futures,” Root said.
Wallingford resident Martin Ordway described working in an industry that hasn’t necessarily been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it has changed the way he goes about his job. The tasks involve heavily disinfecting vehicles.
Ordway is four weeks into an apprenticeship to become a heavy machinery mechanic. Before that he was a heavy duty diesel mechanic. He works on large vehicles — 18-wheel trucks and box trucks.
“The opportunities were there,” Ordway said.