From highway gridlock that makes them late to meetings to an unreliable rail system, a survey of 651 business executives found that getting from one place to another in Connecticut is a big problem that has big consequences for the state’s economy.
The survey, which was conducted by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Connecticut Construction Industries Association, and Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, found that improvements to the state’s transportation system ranked third behind economic development and education, for desired state government spending priorities.
It also found that an estimated 74 percent support legislation that would prohibit the use of special transportation funds to cover general fund shortfalls, 72 percent said increases in the state’s gas and diesel taxes impacted their businesses, and 42 percent of companies surveyed say road congestion limits their market.
The survey is being described as the first major survey of statewide transportation issues. It was released last week at an event in Stamford.
“This survey proves that Connecticut’s future economic health is highly dependent upon an upgraded transportation system,” Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association, said. “For too long, the highways and bridges of this state have been allowed to slip into disrepair. And, congestion now daily chokes the circulatory system which the business community needs for the safe and efficient movement of goods and people.”
On July 1, Connecticut’s petroleum gross receipts tax on gas increased about 4 cents per gallon and diesel fuel climbed about 3.7 cents per gallon. In total, the two increases in taxes were expected to bring in about $60 million a year.
But not all of the money will go toward improving roads. About $91 million in special transportation funds were swept into the general fund in the 2014-15 budget.
According to the survey about three-quarters of respondents said they wanted to make sure the special transportation fund was “off-limits.” About the same number also said recent hikes in the state’s gasoline and diesel taxes had a negative impact on their businesses.
The business executives said that highway delays impact meetings with customers, delivery times, and their ability to get to work. In some cases, it makes it difficult to find staff who are willing to suffer through a rough commute.
A whopping 88 percent of business executives who responded to the survey said businesses want better traffic movement on I-95.
Stamford Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Condlin noted that traffic volume on I-95 was more than three times the highway’s capacity of 50,000 daily vehicle trips.
Presently, there are 164,000 trips per day, which is 312 percent over capacity.
“It’s no wonder that this highway structure is among the state’s — and even the country’s — worst and most unsafe,” Condlin said.
Forty-two percent of companies surveyed say road congestion limits their market; 64 percent believe better transportation options would increase their ability to attract and maintain a quality workforce; and 15 percent considered relocating their businesses because of regional transportation concerns.
About 55 percent of the survey respondents identified highway improvements and expansion as providing the biggest benefit to the state’s residents and businesses, followed by 20 percent who want to see an improved rail system.
The survey was conducted at the same time that Metro-North was forced to scale back its service to New York City when one of the electric cables failed. The survey was emailed to in late September and early October to top executives at 6,000 firms across the state, with a response rate of 10.9 percent and a margin of error of 3.92 percent.