Tucked inside omnibus spending package is another $5M for Coast Guard museum
By JULIA BERGMAN | The Day | Published: December 27, 2020
NEW LONDON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — Tucked into the massive omnibus spending package passed by Congress this past week is more funding for the National Coast Guard Museum planned for the downtown New London waterfront.
The bill includes $5 million for the museum, which brings the total support for the project from the federal government over the last four years to $20 million. The Coast Guard Museum Association, the fundraising arm for the project, has set a goal of $30 million in federal support.
As of noon Sunday, President Donald Trump still had not signed the legislation.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn., announced the latest round of federal funding in a post on Twitter on Monday, saying "the museum is going to be an economic generator for decades" for southeastern Connecticut.
Murphy, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D- Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D- 2nd District, continue to advocate for the project in Congress. Several years ago, they successfully lobbied to change a federal law to allow the Coast Guard to help pay for interior aspects of the museum, such as displays and exhibits, which previously was not allowed. A ban still exists on the use of federal funds for actual brick and mortar construction.
The museum association, in its 2020 Year in Review, reported nearing the halfway mark to complete the estimated $150 million project — $30 million for museum exhibits and programming, $20 million for the pedestrian bridge and $100 million for construction of the museum.
The association reported $73 million in contributions, with fundraising ongoing.
The construction of the museum is expected to take place in three phases, starting with waterfront improvements. The museum association is in the permitting phase, with hopes of starting work in the fall of 2021 and opening the museum in 2024.
Earlier this month, New London's Planning and Zoning Commission granted conditional approval to plans for a nearly $20 million pedestrian bridge linking downtown to the museum. Plans call for a 400-foot, glass-walled pedestrian bridge spanning Water Street to the city's waterfront.
The state has long pledged up to $20 million for the pedestrian bridge with the understanding the bridge and museum projects would proceed together. Talks continue with state officials about the release of that funding.
Day Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.