HARTFORD – At a Wednesday press conference at Union Station in Hartford, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti would be stepping down, leaving Garrett Eucalitto to accomplish the administration’s goals of safety and sustainability with considerable additional funding, but a shortage of staff to carry out the work.
“We need to make our transportation network safer for anyone using our systems, which means continuing to improve our roadways, building out sidewalks and crosswalks, roundabouts, bike lanes, cleaning up our transportation system, making transit easier and more appealing for passengers,” Eucalitto told the assembled crowd. He has been Deputy Commissioner of the department since 2020.
Eucalitto said that in addition to safety improvements, he would leave no federal money on the table and continue Gov. Ned Lamont’s mission to improve full-time employment at the department.
“We’ll put more projects out in the street, put more people to work in good-paying jobs and tie in apprenticeship training programs that’ll put the upcoming generation on a path to success,” said Eucalitto.
He said the department began recruitment earlier this year for 206 additional positions approved by Lamont and the legislature, that the department had been able to fill about 150 jobs, but was hampered in part by the limited number of available staff to could conduct interviews. Eucalitto said the department was short staffed by 700 people.
Eucalitto said the department was in “a good place,” with staffing, but definitely needed to recruit more engineers.
“We’ve tapped, I think, every engineer that works in the state of Connecticut,” he said.
According to a 2021 Connecticut Creates report, a key challenge to filling transportation engineer vacancies at the Connecticut Department of Transportation, was competition from the private sector. But Eucalitto said he would continue the department’s current recruitment plan – attending job fairs across the tri-state region and recruiting from outside of Connecticut.
Eucalitto said the department would repost some job listings, and had already begun conversations with the national DOT Build America Bureau about how they could leverage funding from the new infrastructure law – over $2 billion – to recruit staff.
In addition to recruitment, Eucalitto said he would focus on the Greater Hartford Mobility Program, improving the rail line through Hartford, removing signals in Middletown and seeking $100 billion of available in competitive grant money.
Lamont touted Eucalitto’s experience as uniquely suited to taking advantage of available federal funding. Previously, he served as undersecretary at the Office of Policy & Management under former Gov. Dan Malloy and a legislative assistant to former Sen. Joe Liberman.
“On behalf of all of you here at DOT, we’re just getting started,” Lamont said.
Lamont also thanked Giulietti for his efforts to speed up Connecticut’s train system, lower congestion and take advantage of funding opportunities. He highlighted Giulietti’s work to provide new express trains for commuters and increase services on the Waterbury Branch Line.
“On behalf of the people of Connecticut, I cannot thank you enough for everything you did,” Lamont said.
Giulietti, who previously served as President of Metro-North, took the job shortly before the start of COVID. He told attendees that he was proud his department’s continued service throughout the pandemic.
“We kept it all going when other states were shutting down,” Giulietti said.
Giulietti said the department’s perseverance allowed essential workers to continue working and kept the roads clean through the inclement weather.
Although his 30-30-30 plan – calling for 30-minute train rides from Hartford to New Haven, from New Haven to Stamford and from Stamford to Grand Central – never came to fruition, Giulietti touted the launch of electric M8 trains on Shore Line East during his tenure.
Giulietti thanked Eucalitto, and praised his knowledge and experience in transportation.
“My decision to leave the DOT would not have been possible had I not known that Garrett Eucalitto is here to step up and step in,” said Giulietti. “No one is more passionate and committed to transportation, equity, inclusion and roadway safety than Garrett.”
Prior to the announcement, State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, told CT Examiner that as a Ranking Member on the Transportation Committee, he had only positive things to say about his work with Giulietti, even if they didn’t always agree on policy.
“Hopefully,” said Carney, his replacement would “bring the same open-mindedness and availability that was a signature of Commissioner Giulietti’s tenure.”
State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, told CT Examiner that Giulietti had exceeded his wildest hopes in his role as Commissioner.
Haskell, chair of the Transportation Committee, said he was elated when he discovered that Giuletti had previously worked as a conductor on the New Haven Line and New Canaan Branch, both in his district.
“Joe knows each and every one of those spots along the line like the back of his hand, and that just makes him such an asset to the entire Connecticut Department of Transportation and to the entire state,” Haskell said.
Haskell also praised the choice of Eucalitto.
“I’ve literally traveled around the state with Garrett getting to see up close the improvements that DOT has made, is making and wants to make,” Haskell said. “And I couldn’t be more excited about the vision that he has for the future.”