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Funding for Long Awaited Transportation Projects Approved

by Christine Stuart | Jul 26, 2013 3:05pm
(9) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News, Hartford, Waterbury, Transportation

Christine Stuart photo

Transportation Commissioner James Redeker

The state Bond Commission approved $537 million in borrowing to finance a series of road construction and maintenance projects, including repaving 250 miles of state highway.

The annual transportation allocation will help leverage $600 million in federal dollars, which brings the combined total to more than $1 billion allotted for the various projects. Among the projects to receive funding will be the widening of I-84 in Waterbury between Exits 22 and 25A, the continuation of the Q-Bridge construction project on I-95 in New Haven, and rehabilitation or replacement of more than 40 bridges.

The Waterbury widening project stalled after an audit released in 2007 by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration found major flaws with the $71 million project, such as faulty drains, defective light poles, and an improperly installed bridge that went undocumented by the contractor hired to do the inspection. The state eventually settled with the construction company for $17.5 million to help it finish the three-mile stretch of highway.

Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said the delay in getting to the Waterbury project was simply a funding issue and the state’s ability to get it funded today is the result of other projects coming in under budget.

“This is a year where we’re able to fund the long awaited I-84 widening project,” Redeker said. “So in 2014 we’ll be able to go out to bid for that. That’s a major accomplishment, long awaited, and this funding brings that to fruition.”

The state will spend about $33 million of the $537 million to rehabilitate or replace 30 existing bridges, another $115 million on the Fix-It-First state bridge program, and another $127 million on the resurfacing of state highways.

But there are also billions in road and bridge projects that have yet to be funded.

“For years the backlog of maintenance was growing. That is now diminishing,” Redeker said. “The bridges that need to be repaired are being repaired.”

There are more than $8 billion of highway bridge construction projects that are unfunded at the moment, including projects like the I-84 viaduct in Hartford and the “Mixmaster” on I-84 and Route 8 in Waterbury.

Redeker said there’s a schedule of work that needs to get done and will get done in a specific order. The three major bridges on I-95, including the Moses Wheeler bridge, will be done first. Those will be followed by the viaduct in Hartford and then the Waterbury “Mixmaster.”

The highway bridges get rated on a regular basis and that’s what drives the maintenance and replacement schedule, Redeker said. The program is updated on a regular basis so there will always be transportation projects that aren’t funded.

Redeker said the department is doing its best to address the projects in a timely fashion, but can only do so when it has the funding.

Asked if the gas tax the state is collecting to help fund these projects will be enough, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said “the answer is yes.”

“We are putting more state money into transportation than we’ve ever put before,” he said.

Malloy didn’t mention the $91 million that the 2014-15 budget he just signed into law moved from the special transportation fund to the general fund. The move to raid the special transportation fund dedicated to help pay for transportation projects was made by the Democratic majority to help balance the state budget. Republicans criticized the move and the decision not to cancel the scheduled gas tax increase, which boosted the cost of gas about 4 cents per gallon on July 1. The gas tax increase was agreed to back in 2005 by almost all lawmakers with the exception of a handful of Republicans.

Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who is looking to challenge Malloy for his job, didn’t point out that he voted in favor of the gas tax increase back in 2005. However, he was quick to point out that under Rell’s administration the state allocated $3.6 billion in special transportation bonds and under Malloy’s administration the total is about $2.4 billion.

At the press conference following the Bond Commission meeting Friday, Malloy said that people complain about gas taxes being high, but Connecticut does not have a toll system so there’s no other way to fund highway and road improvements.

“With this funding we are investing in Connecticut jobs now and in the long run,” Malloy said.

The entire $1 billion in transportation projects are expected to involve nearly 20,000 construction workers.


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(9) Comments

posted by: Just another CT resident | July 26, 2013  3:49pm

It’s a shame that Dan continues following the down the path of his predecessors. Taking gas tax money and spending it on everything other than roads and bridges. No wonder this state’s transportation network is in such bad shape.

And how much of the gas tax dollars are going towards the bus route to/from no where (New Britain to Hartford). I would love for you guys to do a follow up story on that project just to see how many people actually use it. The state couldn’t get enough people to use that bus route even if they gave rides for free.

No wonder Ol’ Danny Boy didn’t bother to mention that he’s raided the gas tax fund to spend on everything other than our transportation (road and bridge) network. Do your readers a favor, the next time you see Danny ask him what he will do with the higher gas taxes that just went into effect earlier this month?

posted by: Art Vandelay | July 26, 2013  6:14pm

A total power grab by the Democrats & Malloy. 1: Take money out of the transportation fund & transfer to the general. 2: Claim transportation fund is dry. 3: Bond what’s needed and finally threaten tolls, & higher gas taxes to pay for projects that should have enough capital if the fund wasn’t touched originally.  Talk about voodoo economics!

posted by: Art Vandelay | July 26, 2013  6:15pm

Did any Republicans on the Bonding Commission vote against these appropriations.  If not they are 100% RINOS!

posted by: Commuter | July 28, 2013  12:23am

Oh, Senator McKinney. Not so much with the math.

Rell allocated $3.6 billion over 6 years, that’s about $600 million per year on average and of course that’s without funding the pensions or balancing the budgets.

Malloy is coming in at $800 million a year so far, in a much more difficult economic and federal funding environment, having balanced the budget and fully funded the pension, even as revenues have declined.

Malloy is borrowing when he should, for what he should. Fixing and updating our infrastructure is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government at every level. And interest rates are as good as they are ever gonna be.

posted by: Art Vandelay | July 30, 2013  1:21am

To Commuter:  If 100% of the monies collected from the gas tax & gross receipts tax were kept in a dedicated transportation fund, not one highway project in this state would have to be funded.  Thank the Democrats in the Legislature who in midnight sessions quietly transferred the funds into the general and the governors who allowed it to happen.  Malloy is doing what his predecessors did only on steroids.

posted by: Commuter | August 3, 2013  12:21am

Art, here’s a question for you. Did the budget that Malloy submitted to the legislature propose to sweep the transportation fund, or no?

posted by: Art Vandelay | August 3, 2013  9:56pm

To Commuter,
We need a “Beer Summit”.

posted by: Commuter | August 4, 2013  6:40pm

I’ll take that as an acknowledgement that he did not. Case closed on that point.

posted by: Art Vandelay | August 4, 2013  10:10pm

To Commute,
No it does not. You are a strong believer in Socialism while I’m a Capitalist.