HARTFORD, CT — A Libertarian think tank said Connecticut spends more per mile on its highways than the average state and ranked it 44th in the nation for “overall cost-effectiveness and condition” of its highway system. Department of Transportation officials say the report is “flawed.”
The Reason Foundation, as part of its 24th annual report on federal and state highway conditions found that Connecticut spent $209,157 per lane mile of road, compared to an average of $71,117. The categories included in the total cost calculation include capital and bridge, maintenance, administrative disbursements, highway law enforcement and safety, interest, and bond retirement.
On spending, Connecticut ranks 46th in total spending per mile, 47th in capital and bridge costs per mile, and 50th in administrative cost per mile. The administrative cost per lane mile in Connecticut was $35,028 per mile, while the average is $4,501.
The administrative costs in Connecticut include the pension costs, which come out of the Special Transportation Fund and have increased over recent years because of the state’s unfunded pension liability.
It’s little consolation, but according to the report — which uses 2016 data — New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and New Jersey all spent more per mile than Connecticut.
In safety and performance categories, Connecticut ranks 11th lowest overall fatality rate, 24th in structurally deficient bridges (with 1st place being the state with the fewest structurally deficient bridges), and 30th in traffic congestion.
“To make larger advances in the rankings, Connecticut needs to reduce traffic congestion and get more out of its spending by improving pavement condition on rural highways and arterials or reduce its per-mile costs,” Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the report, said. “Connecticut has a small highway system, but ranks in the bottom five in three of the spending per mile categories (total spending per mile, capital and bridge costs per mile, and administrative costs per mile).”
The state Department of Transportation says the report does not take population density into account, which means many of the states with the highest rankings in the report are those with the least population. The average population density of the 10 states receiving the best rankings is 81 people per square mile. Connecticut has 738 people per square mile.
The methodology used by the Reason Foundation was recently changed to base the calculations on lane miles, versus road miles, however, DOT officials still say the data is flawed because it doesn’t account for how many bridges or tunnels there are, how much usage the road gets, and whether the road is an expressway or country road.
Why does it matter?
Population density means more traffic and greater wear and tear; more traffic means roads have to be built to a higher standard and that construction has to accommodate and work around traffic patterns, Department of Transportation officials wrote in a statement.
The study could rekindle the fight over electronic highway tolls.
Max Reiss, Gov. Ned Lamont’s communications director, said that even if the report is flawed it still suggests the need to improve Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
“Governor Ned Lamont is committed to improving Connecticut’s infrastructure. That is why he is encouraging the General Assembly to approve a bond package that addresses this issue, which is critical to the state’s economic future,” Reiss said Friday. “Connecticut can’t get its economy moving if our workforce is stranded in traffic or sitting idly on a stuck train or a broken down bus. This most recent study is again further proof that Connecticut has to act now to make investments that will pay off in the future. Gov. Lamont’s administration is exploring the right ways to do that that minimize the impact on our residents.”
Organizers of No Tolls CT said the report is just more proof that Connecticut’s costs are out of control and there’s no need for tolls.
However, Feignbaum, who authored the report, said Monday that it suggests Connecticut should add both tolls and widen the lanes to I-95. He also suggested Connecticut stop using so much of its gas taxes on public transit and instead dedicate the money to improving its roads.
Feigenbaum said that would help lower the costs.
He said Connecticut will never rank toward the top of the listing when it comes to spending because the northeast is expensive, but it could look at what Maryland, which has some of the same union rules, is doing because the cost there is much lower than in Connecticut.
Maryland ranked 39th overall in the latest report, a few spots ahead of Connecticut.
Feigenbaum said Maryland “found a way to reduce their costs.”