Policy board touts tolls as fix for transit woes
Published 7:39 pm, Wednesday, January 12, 2011
A working policy group recommended Monday that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pick from a menu including highway tolls, or higher taxes on gasoline, automobile sales and car registrations to fill the state coffers to pay for transportation projects geared toward economic development.
"It's not just a Connecticut issue, it's a national issue to find stable and large revenue sources to invest in transportation infrastructure," said Kip Bergstrom, executive director of Stamford's Urban Redevelopment Commission and a policy group member. "If we don't have a state-of-the-art transportation system we won't have the kind of job creation we want to have."
The 128-page report submitted by the group Monday also suggested Malloy continue the state Department of Transportation's Fix-It-First program of prioritizing spending on maintenance and preservation of existing aging highway and railroad infrastructure before funding major transportation network expansions.
Over the next five years, Connecticut is expected to need about $2.4 billion to finish maintenance and preservation projects required to maintain transportation infrastructure in "good repair," including some highways and bridges built in the 1950s and 1960s, the report states.
The state's Special Transportation Fund, which is funded by the state's gas tax, is to face a deficit of $37.7 million in fiscal year 2012, according to state officials.
"It's major work, but not to the point of replacing the infrastructure," said DOT engineer Brian Mercure, co-chairman of the policy group. "If we don't maintain what we have, we have a much higher cost."
While focusing on preservation, the state also needs to pursue modern bus, rail, and other features that will spur smart growth around transit facilities.
At a news conference Monday, Malloy said he might consider future reintroduction of tolls, taxes or fees to raise transit revenue if the money was legally protected to prevent diversion to cover operating expenses for the state. The state abolished tolls in 1987.
Malloy said he might support having a private company implement tolls on Route 11 in New London County to help raise money to complete construction of the road.
"I would never sign a tolling bill that did not in seven ways to Sunday lockbox the revenue for transportation purposes," Malloy told.
Staff writer Ken Dixon contributed to this story.