Two weeks ago, a diverse coalition of eight different environmental, regional and construction groups held a press conference in Hartford to raise the profile of transportation issues in the upcoming gubernatorial campaign.
“The number of deficient bridges in Connecticut is increasing, and it’s really hard to catch up. We think it’s going to be a major issue for the next governor,” said Don Schubert, President of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association.
The coalition focused on four major points for the next governor to take into consideration: protecting the money that Connecticut has already allocated for transportation, expediting project delivery, developing a reliable funding source for transportation projects, and creating a state wide process by which projects are evaluated and processed.
According to Schubert, who represents several transportation organizations, infrastructure in the state is rapidly aging: Many of the bridges in Connecticut are over 50 years old.
“Transportation is a means, not an end. You need a safe, reliable, efficient transportation system to help people get their jobs,” said Karen Burnasca, coordinator of the Transit for Connecticut coalition.
But the state’s transportation development will likely hit a roadblock in obtaining federal money, as the pool of funds has fast evaporated. The coalition proposed that money in Connecticut’s own special transportation fund should be used for transportation projects only, and even proposed an amendment to the state constitution that a lock box be placed on that fund.
Burnasca said the state must devise a new source of money to fund the billions of dollars of projects that are needed on roads, bridges and bike paths — citing the fact that Connecticut relies heavily on federal funding.
“It’s very important that our future elected leaders understand and value this issue,” said Amanda Kennedy, the Connecticut director of the Regional Planning Association. “The last thing we want is a knee-jerk no new taxes statement without really having thought through the lack of federal funding ahead of us.”
The coalition included representatives from eight different state and regional organizations, ranging from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment to the Connecticut Construction Industries Association.
Schubert said he thought the press conference united a broad base of transportation activists that had not come together previously.
“It’s very interesting because environmental and construction groups are traditionally at odds,” Schubert said.
According to Burnasca, investing in efficient transportation is important because use of public transportation like buses and trains can reduce emissions. He added that the reduction of road traffic and congestion can also shorten commute time, thus reducing the amount of time that emissions can be released into the air during a daily commute.
In addition to the recommended lock box on Connecticut’s state transportation fund, the group of advocates also voiced support for a statewide transportation prioritization plan and regulations to promote efficient delivery of transportation projects, according to a Coalition press release.
Kennedy said the coalition plans to hold a public event along with the gubernatorial candidates in the fall.