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Murphy proposes new methods for funding rail infrastructure

Craig LeMoult

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.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.