As the turmoil in Libya has grown and threatened that nation’s copious oil contributions to global petroleum markets, drivers have been feeling the pain at the pump in recent weeks. The price of gasoline has increased by nearly 10 percent since mid-February and some analysts are even predicting $5/gallon by Memorial Day.
With budget-busting gas prices, transportation alternatives are getting new attention. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced, for example, that he would soon make a decision on the fate of the Hartford-New Britain busway, the 9.4-mile bus-only route stretching from Union Station in downtown Hartford to New Britain.
The project seemed to take a blow when one of its biggest champions, New Britain Mayor Tim Stewart, narrowly lost his bid for the Connecticut State Senate in the recent special elections. Moreover, at a time of troubling debts and deficits for both federal and state governments, in light of the project’s total cost of $567 million, or $60.3 million per mile, the phrase “budget busting” seems to take on new meaning.
The busway isn’t the only transportation item on Governor Malloy’s plate, however. After the state of Florida’s new Governor, Republican Rick Scott, rejected $2.4 billion in federal money to build an 86-mile high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, Mr. Malloy was adamant about getting at least a portion of those funds reprogrammed to the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line.
Last year, Connecticut was awarded just $40 million of the first $8 billion in federal stimulus grants dedicated to high-speed rail. Any additional funds would help bring high-speed rail alongside the 64-mile stretch up the Connecticut River, making it the second such corridor in the state after the Amtrak ACELA and its Boston to Washington, D.C. route.
In many ways, Connecticut is at a tipping point when it comes to transportation issues. Though one of the state’s prime selling points to potential employers should be its strategic location between two of America’s greatest cities, chronic gridlock and high transportation costs serve as deterrents to economic growth.
Until the state can identify and pursue effective solutions for addressing these issues in a budget-friendly manner, Connecticut’s economy will continue to suffer.
Heath W. Fahle served as executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party from 2007-2009. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com