DARIEN, Conn. - Traffic on Interstate 95 and affordable housing were big topics of conversation at a debate Tuesday night between state House of Representatives candidates from Darien, Stamford and Norwalk.
Terrie Wood, the Republican incumbent in the 141st District (Darien/Norwalk) said leadership in the Department of Transportation could help fix traffic problems along I-95. She suggested finding somebody who could re-energize the department and make it more efficient.
Rob Werner, the Democratic challenger in the 141st District, said that realistically not a lot could be done to fix traffic. He suggested that government work with employers to offer flexible working hours, so there would be fewer cars all driving on the highway at the same time.
Nicola Tarzia, a Republican candidate for the 147th District (Darien/Stamford) suggested that Connecticut entertain the idea of having a 65 mph speed limit on I-95. Better train utilization and fewer tractor-trailers on the highways could also alleviate traffic, he said.
William Tong, the Democratic incumbent for the 147th District, suggested looking into a tolled HOV lane for trucks on I-95, which he believes could help eliminate congestion. Improving parking at train stations could encourage more train use, he said.
All the candidates agreed the state's affordable housing requirements for towns need to be changed. The affordable housing statue holds towns such Darien for ransom and should be changed, Tarzia said.
The affordable housing laws are the main reason Werner said he is running. The law allows developers to overstep zoning laws to build affordable housing if a town does not have enough affordable units. He wants Darien to instead be able to pay money to neighboring towns such as Norwalk and Stamford to build affordable housing to meet its requirement.
Tong agreed with Werner's plan. The state needs to use its court system in a more efficient way to settle disputes between developers and towns, Tong said. That way lawsuits could be resolved quickly and wouldn't cost towns so much, he said.
Wood said she has been working to amend the affordable housing statutes to remove the mandates on towns. If a town had an incentive housing zone, one bill she is working on would allow developers to automatically put affordable housing in that zone rather than throughout town. She is also working to give towns more credit for building senior housing.