Stamford Legislators Approve $4.8M for Urban Transitway

The Board of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the final $4.8 million in funding needed to complete the first phase of the Stamford Urban Transitway Tuesday night, even though the Board of Finance has announced that it may audit the project.

The funding passed two votes at Tuesday night’s meeting, with only two city representatives, Pat White, D-1, and Joe Coppola, R-15, dissenting. The approval clears the way for the completion of Phase I of the ongoing $131 million road construction project, which city officials announced last Thursday costs $68.1 million.

“I pretty much knew it was going to pass, and I think it’s the right thing for the city to do to go ahead and finish the project,” said city Rep. Terry Adams, D-3, who represents the South End. “I think anybody would anticipate for it to pass, and it did without controversy. The same people who are going to oppose it are going to oppose it.”

White and Coppola, who voted against the funding, did not return calls and e-mails left for them Wednesday morning.

The Urban Transitway project is intended to increase access to the downtown train station and reduce congestion in the city’s South End by creating a 2.25-mile-long commuter pathway along Jefferson Street. The first phase reaches from Atlantic to Elm streets and is expected to be completed Oct. 15.

“All they have to do now is put the final surface on the road and finish digging a little bit on the opposite side of Elm Street,” Adams said.

The remaining $4.8 million in funding was initially blocked by Republican and independent members of the Board of Finance, but ended up being approved Aug. 16 after Mayor Michael Pavia and other city officials warned that further delay could put the project in danger of losing federal funds. The funding comprises $3.9 million in federal money and $967,000 in city funds. The measure was then passed unanimously by the Board of Representative’s Fiscal Committeelast week.

Also last week, Board of Finance Chairman Joseph Tarzia said he is advocating an audit of Phase I in light of the recent discovery of an indictment brought against the project’s general contractor, Earth Technology Inc. The company has been charged with fraud and money laundering and is accused of trying to overbill a client for the removal of contaminated soil from a New York construction site.

The indictment, which was brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in 2009, concerns the Urban Transitway because a removal of contaminated soil increased the cost of construction by $3.7 million, Tarzia said last week. However, the work was monitored by two independent engineering firms, and the Federal Transit Administration oversaw the project’s finances, city officials said.

Board of Representatives President Randall Skigen said on Wednesday that he is pleased by the board’s vote and that he understands why the Board of Finance is considering an audit of the project.

“I think that an audit may be appropriate,” Skigen said. “I hope that they are being advised in their spending because they seem to be auditing a lot of things these days. But on a project of this size, I don’t think an audit is out of place.”

Staff Writer Kate King can be reached at or 203-964-2263.