HARTFORD, CT — He won’t be on the ballot until November, but that’s not going to stop R. Nelson ‘Oz’ Griebel from talking about his plans for Connecticut.
Griebel, who has to collect more than 7,500 registered voter signatures to run for governor in November, said the reward of proposing detailed plans for how to get Connecticut out of its fiscal malaise is greater than the risk.
Unafraid that a political opponent might rip off his ideas or that he might open himself up to criticism, Griebel said having conversations about things like tolls let’s constituents know what you’re thinking and what you might do as governor.
“I really believe this whole campaign is about giving voters at the front end a clear sense of the type of structural changes that we think need to be made,” Griebel said.
Griebel’s running mate is Newtown attorney Monte Frank.
Part of their plan is to revive the Transportation Strategy Board, which was created by former Gov. John G. Rowland and disbanded by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Griebel, a member of the first Transportation Strategy Board in 2001, said that 15-member board’s first set of recommendations were made the same day impeachment hearings started against Rowland, and based on that timing they were ignored.
The concept of the Transportation Strategy Board was to develop a multi-modal transportation strategy within a year and to agree on funding sources.
Griebel said his board would had five commissioners from five major state agencies, as well as nearly a dozen private sector individuals appointed by the governor and legislature. Griebel said he would chair the board to make sure the business community knew they had a shot of actually getting their proposals funded.
The focus, according to Griebel, needs to start in lower Fairfield County.
He said reducing congestion on I-95 will open up a competitive advantage that Connecticut has over New York in terms of its commercial and residential real estate costs.
“We don’t have a transportation infrastructure that supports the relatively easy movement of people from New York to Connecticut,” Griebel said.
Griebel suggested the state also look at using barges to get freight from New York or New Jersey into Bridgeport, New Haven, or New London. He said he doesn’t know if that would still be cost beneficial because he hasn’t looked at the proposal in years, but he said the state could use the toll system to make it more cost-effective to use barges in order to divert truck traffic off the highways.
“It’s something we have to look hard at,” Griebel said last week.
He also wants to establish electronic tolls within three years. He said they could start with tolling the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstates 84 and 91. Commuters could decide if they want to pay for the convenience of using the toll lane to avoid congestion.
David Stemerman, a Republican who is petitioning his way on the Aug. 14 Republican primary ballot, released his transportation plan Tuesday.
Stemerman’s plan doesn’t offer much detail about how he would pay for transportation improvements aside from partnering with the private sector.
An incentive for the private sector to take on these major construction projects is the ability to toll the highway or bridge once its built to make back their investment, but Stemerman’s plan is careful to avoid the use of the word “toll.”
However, some of the of public-private partnership examples he provided, including the Bayonne and Goethals Bridge in New York and New Jersey, involved tolling of some type.
“On all of these transportation improvements, the private sector is responsible for ensuring the system performs at high standards and is maintained in good condition for the term of the public-private partnership,” Stemerman’s plan states. “Should the private sector fail, payments will be withheld or reduced until performance recovers and continues at high standards.”
Stemerman, who says he sold his hedge fund in order to run for governor, said his plan is to attract billions in private investment to get the highways flowing again and to reduce train travel time to New York City.
Both Griebel and Stemerman support a lockbox for transportation-related revenues.
Voters will get a chance to weigh in on a constitutional amendment that seeks to lock up special transportation fund revenues when they go to the polls in November. The question will be on the ballot for voters.