Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Transportation Commissioner James Redeker pitched their plan Monday to spend an additional $2.8 billion as part of their five-year ramp up to a 30-year, $100-billion vision for transportation.
The five-year ramp up and the enhanced level of funding will increase the current level of transportation borrowing from $1.4 billion to $2 billion per year.
The additional spending would pay for design and engineering of 31 projects. About $1.75 billion of the new spending will fund rail projects with about $900 million for bridges and highways, $43 million for buses, and $101 million for bike trails, according to Redeker.
Malloy called the bill “the gear-up to move the ball forward towards a first in class transportation system.”
It’s a transportation vision he’s still trying to sell the state and lawmakers.
“In a 30-year plan there’s going to be changes,” Malloy said at a press conference Monday. “Our revenue source is drying up, so the idea that were having a discussion about how to pay for things, we have to have that discussion anyway. We’re going to go into negative numbers fairly shortly, and so its time to take this issue on.”
The governor cited new numbers about increased ridership on the New Haven rail line as proof of the need to revamp state’s transportation system.
“The purpose of the ramp up is to take us from today’s production levels about 40 percent higher, and getting ready for organization and system investment capacities greater than that to meet that $100 billion, 30-year plan,” Redeker said.
Tom Harley, the Department of Transportation’s chief engineer, explained that the department is focusing on tools to expedite project delivery, including accelerated bridge construction and more effective contracting methods.
“The key to the plan is how to approach implementation, design, planning, and funding to get us capable of delivering this 40 percent increase in our capacity,” Redeker said.
But members of the committee are concerned that the cost of the project far exceeds the current state revenue stream.
“It seems clear to me is that the five-year ramp up is not just a five-year ramp up, it’s encumbering us long after that,” Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, said. “It’s important that we know what the costs of these initiatives will be and how we will decide to pay that.”
Harley said along with increased funding, there needs to be increased staffing to carry out the initiative. “It’s a bigger program, so we need a larger contingent of people that are involved in the transportation industry,” Harley said.
But already lawmakers are cutting back on the project. The legislature’s Appropriations Committee budget reduced the number of additional staff for the project from 92 to 84.
The governor’s newly established transportation commission, tasked with figuring out how to fund his vision for revamping Connecticut’s infrastructure, is scheduled to meet for the first time today. They are expected to conclude their work by the end of the summer.
Malloy said he is confident the legislature will approve the ramp up this year.
“These systems are falling down,” Malloy said. “The state of Connecticut has not properly invested and hasn’t had a long-term plan. We’ve put forward a long-term plan, and we’re very clear that my administration has to be accountable for that ramp up.”