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Monday, April 02, 2007

Gov. Rell's $1 Metro-North surcharge proposal scrapped

Another of Gov. Rell's proposals is dead in the water.
A legislative working group is proposing that the state borrow most of the money it needs to purchase new rail cars and scrap plans for a $1-per-ticket surcharge on Metro-North passengers.

The surcharge, slated to go into effect next year, was part of a $1.3 billion transportation improvement package that was passed in 2005. It is estimated to generate about $20 million yearly.

Critics said they worried that higher rail fares would discourage people from using the trains and could hurt the state's efforts to ease congestion on Interstate 95.

The working group's plan, released Saturday night by Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, and Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, calls for borrowing $20 million each year for seven years with 20-year bonds. The debt service on the notes would be covered by raising fairs by 1 percent each year for seven years beginning in 2010.

"While the plan is still in draft form, it represents a major step forward in keeping fares as low as possible in order to encourage ridership," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Some lawmakers said they did not like the surcharge when it was proposed, but did not try to change it when the legislature passed the $1.3 billion transportation package because they knew there would be enough time to modify it before 2008.