Murphy proposes new methods for funding rail infrastructure

Aug 7, 2014

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, speaking with business leaders in Stamford on Thursday about funding rail infrastructure.
Credit Craig LeMoult / WGBH

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut says he plans to introduce legislation in September to create two new programs to help fund improvements to the passenger rail system. Murphy shared his ideas with business leaders in Stamford on Thursday.

Murphy is proposing the creation of a program to allow the federal government to guarantee the debt issued by states or rail authorities to pay for large rail infrastructure projects.

“If there was a federal backstop, a federal loan guarantee you might have some more willingness of private sector lenders to get involved in a lot of these bigger rail financing projects,” Murphy said.

Similar programs exist for road and freight rail construction, but not for passenger rail. He’s also proposing a new series of subsidized treasury bonds to help pay to keep railways in a state of good repair. The new proposals follow his plan to fund transportation infrastructure by raising the gas tax. He acknowledged that doesn’t have much public support, but he says it’s necessary to fix crumbling infrastructure.

“Right, I’m going to step out on a political limb and argue for a gas tax increase," said Murphy, "because I think it’s time that somebody admitted that that is the clearest, most likely way to broaden the pie”

Murphy’s proposals seemed well received by a collection of Fairfield County business leaders who met with him, and who stressed the importance of the region’s rail system to its economy.