Connecticut’s infrastructure is falling apart. The roads and bridges that are so critical to the safety and economic well-being of our state are literally crumbling before our eyes. Everyone seems to agree there is a problem, but for years we have shied away from fixing it. That must end and end now. Connecticut needs a long-term, financially feasible and sustainable solution to its infrastructure problems.
The numbers are staggering. 57% percent of Connecticut’s roads are in poor condition, and over one-third of Connecticut’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The poor condition of our roads and bridges means the average Connecticut resident loses 40 hours per year to traffic. Congestion is worsening, and without a long-term solution, major road improvements cannot be made which will result in Connecticut drivers spending more time in traffic and less time with their families.
The state’s roads and infrastructure are critical to our economy. Companies and jobs are fleeing Connecticut, citing our terrible transportation infrastructure. Investing in repairing and improving our roads and bridges will reduce traffic congestion and help keep jobs and attract more companies to grow our economy.
Immediate short-term impacts are clear, but the longer-term effects are just as scary. It is a matter of simple math: estimates show that the special transportation fund will start running annual deficits in 2023, it may not be able to support a bond sale earlier than 2025, and it will be insolvent by 2027. What is clear now is that we do not have enough revenue to make the necessary repairs, improvements and maintenance of our state’s roads and bridges.
How did we get here? Years of inaction and lack of a long-term solution are certainly to blame. But again, it is also a matter of simple math. The Special Transportation Fund (STF) was originally designed to pay debt service to fix roadway bridges. As it adapted to the changing times, today it supports operational and capital expenses for expanded service of other modes of transportation. That includes transit services, which have greatly expanded over the last several years. For example, four railway bridges on the New Haven Line are far beyond their designed life and will cost billions of dollars to replace. Any one of those bridges could divert the current revenue stream flowing into the STF, leaving no funding for its original purpose.
As the needs and programs under the STF broadened and service increased, so too did the need for additional revenue. Unfortunately, the growing operating costs and additional capital needs have been essentially ignored. Now, the simple fact is that the fund does not and will not have enough revenue to cover even the most basic necessary road and bridge repairs if we do not come up with a long-term, sustainable solution. Simply put: We can’t ignore it anymore.
There are currently three options being put forward to fix the state’s failing transportation systems. The first is to continue to do nothing. The second is to borrow billions of dollars through bonding, which would add hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for Connecticut taxpayers. The third is to place tolls on major highways, similar to other states, with discounts being provided to Connecticut drivers and commuters while out-of-state drivers and truckers pay their fair share.
Every dollar the state delays spending on road maintenance costs Connecticut $4-5 in future repairs and unlike raising taxes or taking on more debt, tolling is a solution that ensures Connecticut taxpayers are not shouldering the entire cost of road repairs.
We have to act now. If we keep doing nothing, we will watch as our roads and bridges continue to deteriorate, putting drivers’ safety at risk. Inaction simply does not represent the best interests of the people of Connecticut.
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