Connecticut’s roads among worst in nation [CT Post]

July 16, 2014

CT Post

Connecticut has a new distinction: The state’s roads are the roughest in the nation and its bridges are not far behind, ranking third-worst in the U.S.

That is according to a White House report intended to drum up support for increased transportation spending.

The report says that 41 percent of Connecticut’s 21,000 miles of roads are in “poor condition” and 35 percent of the state’s 1,500 bridges are “deficient or obsolete.”

“This adds fuel to the fire and the urgency of building our infrastructure,” said state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a ranking member on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

“We are a small state that a lot of people drive through on a continuous basis,” Boucher said. “We have rail that was allowed to deteriorate, and road issues.”

According to the report, the best roads are in Nevada and Wyoming, and the best bridges are in Arizona and Wisconsin.

Rhode Island tied Connecticut for worst roads, with 41 percent in poor condition, followed by New Jersey and California. Rhode Island also has the worst bridges, with 57 percent considered deficient or obsolete, followed by Massachusetts.

Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the index used by the White House report considered only the “rideability” of roads — meaning how smooth they are — and is not an assessment of road safety.

Still, Nursick conceded the state’s infrastructure has many needs, with limited money to meet those needs.
“It does not take a brain surgeon to understand that the needs are increasing and federal funding has been stagnant for years,” he said.

Nursick disputed Connecticut’s bridge ranking, saying the state is “in the middle of the pack in terms of structurally deficient bridges.”

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said the governor supports President Barack Obama’s transportation initiative and defended Malloy’s stewardship of state roads and bridges.

“We are allocating more revenue to the Special Transportation Fund than any previous administration has for decades,” he said. “Previous administrations failed to invest in infrastructure. It’s been up to Gov. Malloy to fix their mess,” Doba said.

Boucher said former Gov. M. Jodi Rell is the only governor in recent memory to seriously invest in infrastructure. Read Full Article

“The bottom line is we have to stop raiding the transportation fund and giving big corporations hundreds of millions of dollars, and reprioritize what we invest in roads and bridges,” Boucher said.

“I don’t think Malloy has done that. It’s been four years to say what your blueprint is for fixing the state,” Boucher said.

She said the investment can happen “without raising taxes.”

Titled “It’s Time to Rebuild America,” the White House report is part of a lobbying effort by President Barack Obama to push a transportation bill through Congress to “fund our nation’s transportation system and invest in the nation’s future growth.”

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would temporarily patch a multibillion-dollar pothole in federal highway and transit programs. The vote was 367 to 55. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

The bill cobbles together $10.8 billion by using pension tax changes, customs fees and money from a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for transportation programs nationwide, solvent through May 2015.

Without congressional action, the fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid to states by the first week in August.

Obama plans to pay for the spending through unspecified “pro-growth business tax reforms.”

The administration contends poor roads cost Americans productivity, increase car repair bills and force commuters to waste time in traffic.

“That’s why I put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way,” Obama said Tuesday during a speech in Virginia.

“It would support millions of jobs,” the president said. “It would give cities and states, and private investors the certainty they need to plan ahead and hire more workers. It would help small businesses ship their goods faster. It would save people money.”

State Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, a state Transportation Committee member, disagreed with the Obama initiative.

“The administration may be trying to dump money in hopes it will stimulate the economy,” he said. “I don’t think infrastructure will do that. There is so much chance of misspending and corruption when you put that much money out there.”

The report said the U.S. lags behind many of its overseas competitors in transportation infrastructure investment and that 65 percent of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition, one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic, and 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.

“Americans spend 5.5 billion hours in traffic each year, costing families more than $120 billion in extra fuel and lost time,” the report said. “American businesses pay $27 billion a year in extra freight transportation costs, increasing shipping delays and raising prices on everyday products. Under-investment impacts safety too.”