He might not have been able to tell cities and towns they will receive the same amount of money they received last year from the state, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy did offer them some relief from the “red tape” of federal transportation funds.

Part of the budget Malloy will release on Feb. 6 will include $15 million to establish a local transportation program to facilitate the design and construction of municipal roads and bridges.

“I’m going to embarrass myself by saying I don’t know why I didn’t do this two years ago,” Malloy told local elected officials at the Council of Small Towns meeting Wednesday.

Under Malloy’s first proposal, the state would provide the money to the cities and towns and then seek reimbursement from the federal Department of Transportation. He said the state is better structured to carry out the federal programs, while many local governments are not.

The second part of the proposal is aimed at improving the local bridge program to encourage participation and reduce the number of deficient municipal bridges.

According to the Department of Transportation, there are more than 3,400 bridges and culverts on municipally maintained roads. The program was first offered in 1985, but by 2009 the legislature swept the remaining funds to help balance the state budget deficit.

Malloy wants to borrow $15 million toward the bridge program and extend the deadline for submitting applications. There is no federal funding available for the bridge program, but under the current guidelines municipalities may receive up to 33 percent of the eligible project cost. The state also provides local governments the option to borrow up to 50 percent of the project cost at 6 percent interest.

“Not exactly Santa Claus, but it’s a start,” Malloy told local leaders.

The legislature will need to approve the measure, which was received warmly by the local elected officials in attendance.

Click here for a list of bridge inspection reports.