HARTFORD, CT — Cities and towns across the state have been anxiously waiting for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to release $30 million in funding for their local road projects, but it looks like they will have to wait a little longer.
Malloy, who controls the state Bond Commission agenda, won’t ask the commission to approve the Town Aid Road (TAR) funding Friday.
“We do not feel we can authorize that additional $30 million in STO bonds and obligate that debt to the Special Transportation Fund at this time,” Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy, said Thursday. “We are optimistic that we will be able to act on the additional TAR funding later this spring once the legislature has taken needed steps to strengthen the Special Transportation Fund [and] provide a sustainable and predictable path forward for Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.”
Typically, the second half of the Town Aid Road money would be released in January.
But earlier this month Malloy canceled $4.3 billion in transportation projects because the Special Transportation Fund is headed for insolvency.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said local governments have long depended on these grants.
“When TAR is cut, local road projects are shelved — meaning jobs are lost and costs of repairs will be even higher when finally undertaken. Shortchanging TAR is pennywise and pound-foolish,” the largest municipal lobby said in a press release.
The American Society of Civil Engineers found that 73 percent of Connecticut’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
The Connecticut Council of Small Towns was equally disappointed in the decision.
“Town Aid Road grants are critical to Connecticut’s small towns in maintaining the transportation infrastructure needed to support local economies,” Betsy Gara, executive director of COST, said. “Towns have to go out to bid and enter into contracts now to begin to move forward with projects in the spring. The uncertainty regarding whether Town Aid Road grants will be released is forcing towns to defer needed road maintenance projects, which will lead to higher repair costs down the line.”
Legislative leaders said they want the governor to release the money to municipalities.
“Quite honestly I don’t know what the governor’s thinking,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Wednesday at a forum sponsored by COST.
He said they want the governor to release the funds to municipalities.
“For every dollar you put into road improvements, it’s almost $3 plus dollars back to the local economy,” Aresimowicz added. “Many of our bridges and roads are currently failing and we have to turn that trend around.”
How they’ll be able to get there remains unclear.
With a closely divided House and an evenly divided state Senate it will be difficult to increase the gas tax to help improve the fiscal health of the Special Transportation Fund.
Aresimowicz said if he had it his way the state would create a separate transportation authority with the ability to raise money and move forward with projects. He said they could write the legislation in such a way that the General Assembly could override an action by the transportation authority if necessary, but he would give the authority the power to make decisions.
The proposal was part of the Democratic budget last year that never received a vote.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said if the speaker wants a transportation authority to make the hard decisions, then he shouldn’t be in office.
“We get elected to do a job. We should be doing our job,” Klarides said.
She said they don’t support tolls because they’re afraid to support them. She said they don’t support them because “we don’t support revenue grabs with 50 to 80 tolling places.”
She said they don’t support the concept on the facts, “not because they don’t have the backbone to do it.”