The governor warned lawmakers and the public that transportation fund money is running out and it will have consequences for anyone traveling in this state.
Gov. Dannel Malloy sounded the alarm about the Connecticut Special Transportation Fund at a news conference at the State Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
"We need to take action now," Malloy said.
Malloy said "critical transportation projects" were at risk. He said in two years, the state is facing a $38 million deficit in the Connecticut Special Transportation Fund.
"This is a shared concern affecting every region of the state and demands a collective solution," Malloy said.
A new report by the Department of Transportation and Office of Policy and Management shows "the solvency of the fund is in growing jeopardy."
The governor said plans for construction and renovations to roads and bridges will stop. There is a long list of projects that are in danger of being halted. They're in the dozens and span the entire state. On top of that, the governor said rest stops would close and fares on public transportation such as rails and buses would increase by 10-15 percent. Shoreline East would see a reduction in services and there will be cuts at the DOT.
"These would be deep, painful cuts. Cuts that no one should want," Malloy said.
Malloy, who has long been a supporter of creating a transportation lock box, said the state has "put off the tough choices necessary for making critical investments in our state’s transportation system and growing our economy." The governor said now, the state is "at a crossroads."
"A decision must be made: will we cancel important projects and let our roads and bridges deteriorate, or will we endeavor to face these problems head on and find new ways to support our transportation system. My position remains clear: transportation is critical to our economic success and simply cutting our way out of this would be catastrophic to our state. As we prepare to enter a new year, I will encourage and facilitate continued dialogue with my fellow leaders in state government to ensure that action is taken and taken soon," Malloy said in a statement on Thursday.
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz said "maintaining and updating" the transportation infrastructure is "critical to our future economy and a top priority of our business community, which is why we passed a transportation funding ‘lockbox’ and began to divert a portion of the sales tax for this purpose."
"I still believe a modern electronic toll system and less reliance on the gas tax has to be part of the equation to help get us back on track in the long term, and intend to have a vote on tolls this upcoming session. It makes no sense, and isn’t fair to Connecticut taxpayers, that we provide a freeway to the large amount of out of state traffic that passes through, while all of us pay every time we cross the border into surrounding states," Aresimowicz said in a statement on Thursday.
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) said the transportation plan by the state Democrats and the governor has been "barred with potholes from the beginning."
“This issue didn’t just creep up on us today; this is a result of bad policies that have been enacted by Governor Malloy and his Democrat colleagues – policies that have run the transportation fund into the ground. Some of these failed policies have included diverting dedicated money from the Special Transportation Fund to solve the General Fund’s annual budget deficits, constructing a 9 mile busway to nowhere. These problems were further exacerbated by a $100 billion transportation plan that was enacted without a way to pay for it. All of these actions combined have continued Connecticut down the road of fiscal ruin. Now we near the governor’s final year in office and he is advocating that we need to charge our hard-working taxpayers more in order to squeeze more revenue? That is not the answer. Smart, forward thinking policies that are adequately funded is the answer, policies that my caucus has proposed for many years," Fasano said in a statement on Thursday.
In Waterbury, the Mixmaster Project is just one of the plans that would be halted, affecting the 150,000 who drive over these bridges everyday.
"I have more problems here in traffic than I do anywhere else and I drive all the way to New Haven every day," Nathan Nadwairski, of Waterbury, said.
The other big project in Waterbury is the expansion of Interstate 84. No matter what happens with this fund that ongoing construction is not expected to be affected.
The governor said the money has been depleted because the gas tax isn't bringing in the revenue expected, while debt payments have increased. The governor's administration is looking to come up with a plan that would fund the account to the point where these drastic measures won't need to be taken and he's pleading for lawmakers to work with him.
"We can either raise fares, cut services and cancel important projects in towns and cities across Connecticut or we can embark on a serious conversation of how we can plan to support and grow the special transportation fund," Malloy said.
To read the full report on the current state of the Connecticut Special Transportation Fund, click here.
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