(Updated 3:20 p.m.) On Wednesday the legislature approved an emergency certification of the plan proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to authorize bonds for infrastructure improvements to around 200 lane miles on the state’s roads.
The emergency certification allows the plan to bypass the Finance Committee and move directly to the Bond Commission in time for its March 25 meeting.
The measure would allow the Bond Commission to authorize up to $68.9 million in state bonding for road resurfacing and reconstruction and would free up access to $8.1 million in federal dollars for road projects, according to a prepared statement from Senate President Donald Williams’ office.
The Office of Policy and Management said the program would create 1,050 jobs in the state. If approved by the Bond Commission, construction could begin in April and continue through November, the statement said.
“It’s important that we get this legislation passed as soon as possible so workers can take full advantage of the construction season,” Williams said in a statement. “The repaving is essential for the safety of motorists and efficiency of our economy. I’m also pleased that we’re able to leverage $8 million of federal funding to help repair our roads and put people to work.”
On Wednesday morning the proposal seemed to have bipartisan support. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said he supported the measure and doesn’t expect any opposition to it. It’s been the practice in recent years to try to get road paving money out the door as early as possible, he said. That puts people to work quicker, makes the best use of construction season, and helps to ensure that the roads are safer before summer time, he said.
And the plan moved smoothly through the Senate, where it passed 32 to zero with four members absent. Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, encouraged his colleagues to support the measure, saying “anyone who came here by car today can understand it can’t happen soon enough.”
But the measure received more discussion in the House of Representatives, where it ultimately passed 121 to 22. Rep. Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton, said the concerns that led her to vote against the measure stem from the fact that the state will be looking for money to repave the roads again before these new bonds are even paid off.
Typically improvements to roads last about 12 years, while the bonds to fund the improvements are for 20 years, she said.
“It’s about carefully managing the state’s money,” she said.
If the Department of Transportation utilized longer-lasting topping materials like rubberized pavement it would be a better investment, she said. But the bill only adds more to the state’s debt and the interest that will need to be paid on it, she said.