As the state moves forward with plans to improve Route 11 in Connecticut’s southeast corner, implementing tolls to pay for the project are still an option, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday.
Plans to finish the 8.3 mile stretch of Route 11 have been in the works in some form or another for decades. But the governor said the current proposal has a chance at succeeding where others have failed, in part because it entertains flexible funding options. Implementing tolls, he said, are still an option.
But re-establishing tolls in a state that has been without them since 1989 would take an act of the legislature. There is currently a bill on the House calendar that would allow for tolls to be placed on Route 11.
Under that measure, the Department of Transportation could impose tolls on new highways and new highway extensions. The funds generated from those tolls would only be used to fund the new roads and would be discontinued as soon as the state’s share of the construction was paid off.
The governor said it’s still impossible to speculate on how much the project might cost, never mind where the funding will come from. That information will come from the studies he has commissioned into the current project, he said.
Malloy said the lack of adequate information has been part of the reason previous attempts to improve the road have failed.
“We hadn’t done the kind of work necessary to price this thing out. So it would be rejected as too expensive without actually knowing what the expenses were because you couldn’t expense it out because you haven’t gotten a real design and you don’t have a real design because you haven’t done the environmental work,” he said, adding that it is his intention to answer all of those questions over the next two and a half years.
This time, the state will move forward attempting to address a number of concerns at once to avoid that sort of confusion, Malloy said.
Beginning this summer, the Department of Environmental Protection will conduct a year-long study into the environmental impact of the project. DEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said it’s been decades since the state has built a new highway. During that time much has been learned about the process, including the idea that it’s cheaper to address environmental concerns at the beginning, he said.
“I cannot tell you how important and critical that is to having a successful resolution to this challenge,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, said the state has received a $5 million matching grant from the Federal Highway Administration to fund the environmental impact study. The 80-20 percent matching grant requires the state to contribute $1 million.
In addition to the environmental assessment, Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner James P. Redeker said the success of the project is tied to two other steps. First the department must complete the remaining field survey work for the project and use them to come up with engineering cost estimates, he said. The final step is figuring out how the project will be paid for, Redeker said.
“The final piece will be a revenue study that will take a look at options for funding the road, using not just traditional sources as was done before but investigating things like tolling and other mechanisms that can bring sufficient funding to the table to do this,” he said.
The governor noted that the project won’t be inexpensive and its completion will take a number of years. But he said his administration would be moving forward with the project from that day forward.