Officials say Connecticut can’t afford to skimp on transportation system repairs [NHRegister]

October 27, 2015

New Haven Register

HARTFORD >> As Gov. Dannel P. Malloy prepares to meet with top lawmakers from both parties next week in a bid to fix the state budget, two members of his cabinet say one thing that shouldn’t be cut is funding for transportation.

Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith and state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker say Malloy’s proposed 20-year, $100 billion transportation improvement plan is needed to make up for years of neglect and to take advantage of Connecticut’s proximity to New York City and Boston. Smith and Redeker met with reporters at the Capitol Friday to make their case why the governor’s plans should remain intact, even as lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties look to restore mid-year budget cuts made to hospitals and human services programs.

“You don’t want the state to have the reputation that you can’t move around here,” Smith said.
The Malloy plan is the largest investment in transportation in the state’s history. Asked whether any of the transportation funding could be reallocated, Redeker said that only a third of what Malloy wants is going toward new projects.
“Two thirds of this is unavoidable critical repairs,” he said. “If we do, it will shut down Connecticut.”

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he agrees that transportation must be a priority of the state’s budget, “but we have to be realistic and honest about what our state can afford to do.”
“The governor’s plan is designed to shock and awe,” Fasano said. “The reality is only four other places in the world have approved a $100 billion transportation initiative: the country of Mexico, the country of Colombia, the province of Ontario, and the state of California — all areas much larger than Connecticut.”

Redeker said Connecticut drivers spend about one work week annually stuck in traffic, at a cost of over $1.6 billion in lost worker productivity and fuel.
But Fasano said DOT’s analysis fails to take into account massive tax hikes that will needed to pay for Malloy’s “oversized and unrealistic $100 billion plan.”

It fails to talk about the potential job losses that would follow, he said. “It fails to talk about the burdens every single person in Connecticut will face as a result of a plan that counts on money our state simply doesn’t have and cannot afford.”
Fasano said the Republicans’ plan would fund transportation with at least $1 billion every year for the next 30 years without the need to raise taxes.

In addition to traffic congestion, Redeker said Connecticut’s other transportation woes include:
• More than 400 bridges that don’t meet the national standard of being able to support 1,000 pounds.
• Seventy percent of bridges that are maintained by the Connecticut DOT are 50 years old or older.
• Ten percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient while 25 percent are functionally obsolete.
• Forty-one percent of state and local roads are rated as being in poor condition, which results in Connecticut drivers paying $661 per year in operating costs.
During the last session, the legislature bolstered Connecticut’s transportation funding by dedicating three-tenths of a percent of the state’s 6.35 percent sale tax to that purpose. The main way the state pays for transportation improvements — the 25-cent per gallon gasoline tax — has been declining in recent years as cars become more efficient, Redeker said.
Without the addition of the sales tax, Redeker said the state would have run out of transportation funding in fiscal 2018. The additional funding means Connecticut won’t run out of transportation funding until the end of 2022, he said.