Christine Stuart photo
Transportation Commissioner James Redeker (Christine Stuart photo)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy spent part of his cabinet meeting Wednesday reiterating his call for a constitutional lockbox for transportation funds.

Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said underinvestment in transportation over the last few decades has begun to take its toll on Connecticut’s roads and bridges.

He said 35 percent of Connecticut’s bridges are functionally obsolete or structurally deficit and 41 percent of state and local roads are in “poor” condition. Those poor road conditions add $661 per year in operating costs for drivers.

Road conditions and lack of access to transportation also make the state less desirable to businesses.

Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said one of the most important factors businesses consider when they’re relocating is access to transportation. She said it has replaced talent as the number one factor corporations consider in relocation decisions.

Earlier this year, Malloy laid out his 30-year, $100 billion transportation vision and created a panel to figure out how to fund it.

Originally, the panel was supposed to finish its work in October, but it requested an additional two months.

Cameron Staples, who chairs the panel, has said that when the legislature decided to use a half-cent from the state sales tax to shore up the special transportation fund, it changed the timeline. Initially, the panel was planning to have its recommendations in place this fall for a special session, but “because the fund is now solvent for the next few years, it really took pressure off us,” Staples said last month.

He said they are looking at meeting in November to begin putting together their draft report and a final report the first week of December.

Malloy admitted that the sales tax only pays for a portion of his plans and a lockbox would go a long way to guaranteeing the funds will be there in the future.

“A gigantic portion of it is already paid for. It just needs to be secured by a lockbox,” Malloy insisted. “What I’m saying is, the legislature has taken the first step by appropriating one half percent of the sales tax for that purpose. They’ve taken the second step of passing a legislative lockbox. My administration has taken a third step and that is to post those proceeds as repayment of the bonds, which ties the state’s hands. Then, ultimately, we need to take the final step and have a constitutional lockbox.”

The legislature would need to pass a constitutional lockbox amendment with a three-quarters majority in order to get it on the 2016 ballot.