From the Capitol: Things to Ponder on Your Daily Commute By Senator Kevin Kelly

October 4, 2013

“There appears to have been little plan for this catastrophic failure.”

That was how Gov. Dannel P. Malloy summed up the power outage on the New Haven Line of Metro-North Railroad.

The governor is right to press for commuter refunds and to take steps to make sure that backup plans are put in place to prevent future failures. What’s broken must be fixed, but as those fixes get made we should take time to consider other, less high-profile failures in our transportation policies.

As you commute to and from New York City and try your best to maintain your patience, you might want to consider the following:

  • Your state government is funding a nine-mile, $1000-an-inch, $667 million busway between New Britain and Hartford. Connecticut taxpayers have coughed up $112 million in funding the busway to date. Once that project is finished, you will still be on the hook for more annual payments. Between $12 and $20 million of your money will be used to subsidize the busway every single year going forward.
  • Connecticut government’s raids on the state’s Special Transportation Fund have become the norm. The fund is supposed to be a “lock box” of protected money designated solely for the purpose of road and bridge maintenance. It isn’t. Our governor has signed budgets which raid the “untouchable” Special Transportation Fund by $187.3 million.
  • It has now been two months since the state’s gas tax was hiked by the largest amount in state history. Our gas taxes per gallon are now the highest in the continental U.S. That gas tax revenue is supposed to go toward maintaining roads and bridges, but instead it is going toward balancing the budget. Meanwhile, our uncompetitive gas prices drive motorists to neighboring states to fill up.

These are all examples of how a lot of money – your money – is not being directed toward key Connecticut transportation infrastructure that could really use the funding. At the State Capitol, I will continue to fight wasteful projects like the busway, raids of the Special Transportation Fund, and gas tax hikes. I will also push for smarter investments to be made. For example:

  • Why not invest in Metro-North’s Waterbury branch line to increase frequency and ridership? Currently, many Naugatuck Valley residents travel to Stratford, Milford and Bridgeport to park. Our goal should be to get more cars off the road earlier in their commute.
  • Further modernization improvements to the New Haven line should be made to better serve commuters with new and faster rail cars.
  • We should look to improve mass transportation service once a rider reaches his or her destination.

A government tells a story with its priorities. In Hartford, those priorities have been made crystal clear over the past few years.

  • That busway in New Britain? You paid for it and will keep paying for it, even though you may never use it.
  • That untouchable transportation fund? It gets raided on an annual basis.
  • That gas you pump into your vehicle? The July 1 gas tax hike you are now paying doesn’t help with road and bridge improvements.

These costly examples reveal that our state government is not doing all it can to make our transportation infrastructure safer and more efficient. The New Haven Line’s power outage exposed the lack of a backup plan, but it should also shine a bright light on the other poor policy choices that are being made in Hartford. This is your money. Your money is being mismanaged.

So as you make your daily commute, consider these examples along with the urgent need to change the decision-makers in Hartford. You have an opportunity to prevent future failures.

*Kevin Kelly represents the 21st Senatorial District, which includes the towns of Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford. He can be reached at 800 842 1421 or at [email protected] .