HARTFORD, CT — A new report seeks to calculate what would happen if Connecticut failed to invest in its transportation infrastructure over the next 20 years.
The report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found that Connecticut would lose $3.2 billion in economic activity each year, including $2 billion in lost sales and 10,227 in lost jobs, that an investment in transportation would have supported.
That adds up to $65 billion in benefits, wages, and output for drivers and businesses and nearly $21.4 billion in the state’s Gross Domestic Product over a 20 year period.
Alison Premo Black, the senior vice president for American Road and Transportation Builders Association who authored the report, said what’s harder to quantify and is not spelled out in the $65 billion is the “intangible benefits of that increased investment.”
Transportation systems are a “key factor” in a lot of decisions by businesses to locate to a state, Black said.
Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said it’s clear that Connecticut is competing with other neighboring states for its workforce and “neglecting our transportation system is not going to give us a competitive advantage.”
Connecticut, according to the Federal Highway Administration, has 21,512 miles of roadway. Of the state’s 6,330 miles of roadway eligible for federal aid, 57 percent is rated “not acceptable” and in need of major repair or replacement. An estimated 33.5 percent of Connecticut’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The Transportation Department estimates that repairing or replacing four key rail bridges will cost over $3 billion.
Shubert said the House Democrats latest budget diverts part of the sales tax that was dedicated to the special transportation fund, leaving the fund with barely enough money to stay solvent over the next two years.
The group also says the House Democrats and Republicans both included a $700 million annual bonding cap as part of their budget proposals. The Connecticut Department of Transportation estimates the level of support needs to be about $900 million a year. That means a bond cap would have an immediate impact on transportation investment in the state.
So even though the bond cap would save $15.7 million per year in reduced debt service, it could cost the state over time because it would equate to an underinvest in transportation infrastructure.
The Transportation Department recently indicated a bond cap could delay or cancel 22 highway, bridge, and transit projects valued at up to $689 million. It would also suspend or delay 11 projects and cancel or delay $70 million in local aid programs.
That includes the $228 million Charter Oak Bridge project in Hartford, as well as $97 million for the Gold Star Bridge on I-95 between New London and Groton, and $65 million for the I-84 West Hartford project.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s compromise budget does not include a bonding cap, but any bonding would be subject to the statutory debt cap. That cap is unable to be calculated since there is no agreement on how much revenue will be spent over the next two years.
In February, Malloy proposed bonding $1.37 billion in 2018 and $1.57 billion in 2019 for transportation projects.
Chris Collibee, a spokesman for Malloy, said the report underscores what the governor has been saying for years.
“Our failure as a state over the past four decades to make desperately needed investments in our highways and mass transportation systems has set us back, and if we do not act, we will fall only further behind other states,” Collibee said. “While extraordinary progress has been made under Governor Malloy to address many of those deficiencies — more work remains in the years and decades ahead. This report and its recommendations should be given careful consideration by all policy makers.”
The report, which didn’t take into account how transportation is financed, found Connecticut drivers in urban areas spend anywhere from 16 to 74 hours a year stuck in traffic at a total cost ranging from $68 million to $14.7 billion.
That time spent in traffic is on some of the worst roadways in the country.
Poor roadway conditions are a contributing factor in more than half of the 265 roadway fatalities on Connecticut roads, costing the state $2.2 billion annually, according to the report.
Amy Parmenter, public affairs manager for AAA, said Connecticut already has seen 200 traffic fatalities this year, which means it’s likely the upward trend will continue.
“We are ahead of last year, which was ahead of the year before,” Parmenter said. “We are not moving in a positive direction.”
She said they know the numbers of people living in Connecticut and doing business in Connecticut are dwindling, “and investing in transportation infrastructure is a key to reversing this troubling trend.”