Malloy’s Transportation Project Gets Initial Funding [Courant Capitol Watch]

July 29, 2015

Article as it appeared in Capitol Watch

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to overhaul the state’s aging and inadequate transportation grid earned its first substantial infusion of public cash on Tuesday when the State Bond Commission allocated $24.9 million for public transit projects.

The amount is a precursor to a much larger effort that will touch every corner of Connecticut and cost about $100 billion over 30 years.

“”The approval of these allocations today marks the official start of a new era in modernizing and improving infrastructure — our roads, our rails, transit systems, bike paths and walkways.” Malloy said at a news conference after the bond commission’s meeting.

Transportation has been a priority during Malloy’s second term as governor. At the beginning of the legislative session in February, the Democratic governor unveiled the “Let’s Go CT!” project, with a goal of revamping the state’s network of highways, bridges and public transportation services.

During a special legislative session June 29, the General Assembly approved $2.8 billion for the first five years of bonds for the transportation project, providing $275 million of the bonds for fiscal year 2016. All state bonds must be approved by the bond commission, and Malloy said the commission will continue to meet to allocate bonds.

“Connecticut is making the right investments in our economic future at the right time,” Malloy said.

Among the allocations for projects approved Tuesday are $4 million for a new dock yard for the Danbury Branch Line in Norwalk and $7 million to install location devices on public buses in Connecticut, allowing for a tracking system similar to that available for CTFastrak buses. The bonding also includes $10 million for designing and engineering the widening of I-84 in Danbury between exits 3 and 8. Much of the remaining funding goes toward studying and designing larger projects, including expanding CTFastrak bus services into Manchester.

Beyond Tuesday’s set of allocations, Malloy’s “Let’s Go CT” initiative will eventually include many major infrastructure projects around the state.

One of the initial allocations calls for $1 million to design a replacement for the “Mixmaster,” a multi-level tangle of exit ramps where I-84 and Route 8 meet in Waterbury. Tuesday’s set of bonds also includes $1 million for exploratory work on the interchange between I-91, I-691, and Route 15 in Meriden and Middletown.

Some of the other projects and improvements stipulated for the first five years, but not yet allocated for, include work to improve the constant traffic back-up along I-84 in West Hartford and the I-84 viaduct in downtown Hartford.

While Malloy praised the allocation of the initial funding, some Connecticut legislators raised concerns about rising debt obligations in the state. The state has a self-imposed bonding cap of $2.5 billion for the calendar year.

“I think it would behoove all of us to pay very, very close attention to how much we’re borrowing and what are we doing to the future generations of the state of Connecticut by burdening them with this debt,” Sen. Scott Frantz, a Republican, said at the end of the bond commission meeting. He warned that the state was close to the bonding limit.

Malloy responded to Frantz’s concern, saying that Connecticut has certain funding obligations that other states with county governments do not share.

“Unless we are going to change structurally the obligations that we have committed to with respect to local governments and boards of education, it’s difficult to make the changes you talked about,” Malloy said. The bond commission approved $300 million in bonds for school construction at the Tuesday meeting.

The $24.9 million for the “Let’s Go CT!” project was not the only transportation funding approved Tuesday. The bond commission also allocated $30 million for Town Aid Road grants, another of the 48 proposals the commission passed unanimously during its semi-ceremonial meeting.

The Governor’s Transportation Finance panel will meet Wednesday to continue to discuss and plan Malloy’s transportation project.