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State OK's TSB in Last Day of Special Session

The last-minute establishment of a statewide transportation strategy board, with $50 million to begin solving the state's growing traffic congestion problems, won approval by a vote of 118-0 in the CT State House Friday.

The bill - expected to win approval by the Senate - establishes a 15-member Transportation Strategy Board that will decide how to spend $50 million to ease highway gridlock and improve mass transit. The board is charged with presenting an initial plan to the legislature by January 2002 with projections of how much its recommended improvements will cost over 10 years.

Among the projects expected to receive funding are an expansion of bus service in major cities, especially the Hartford area; a study of operating a commuter rail line between New Haven and Springfield; improvements to rail service along the shoreline; and improving I-84 interchanges from Danbury to Newtown.

The transportation bill also creates a seven-member board of directors to run Bradley International Airport - a change promoted by the governor and top business leaders. A study group spent most of last year examining Bradley's operations and crafting the proposed legislation. Supporters of the change hope that a small panel made up largely of senior corporate leaders will make the state-owned airport more entrepreneurial and able to respond quickly to opportunities in the rapidly changing aviation industry.

State Transportation Commissioner James F. Sullivan, who resisted the idea initially, now supports the new governance structure.