Connecticut General Assembly Representative Thomas Kehoe (D-31) has written on more than one occasion to Department of Transportation Commissioner Ralph Carpenter asking for greater bike access on Connecticut roads and highways. His calls, focused mainly on including bike and pedestrian lanes on the William H. Putnam Route 3 Bridge and along the Route 2 corridor in Glastonbury, unfortunately, on more than one occasion, have been rejected.
In each response letter, Commissioner Carpenter has used dubious language and even more dubious reasoning to explain the Department’s antipathy towards Representative Kehoe’s ideas. Most glaringly, is that Connecticut State Statutes “prohibit bicycle access to interstate highways and expressways”. Even if this is the case, the statute is antiquated and should be repealed, especially since bikeways already exist on I-291 and I-95 bridges. Laws are not static entities, never to be changed or modified.
Commissioner Carpenter also reasons that there is no funding available for “projects to assist the non-motorized public.” But he fails to mention that there are no funds available because ConnDOT ‘s has chosen to spend the money elsewhere. According to a TSTC report, 36% of ConnDOT’s budget is flexible funding and can be spent on any transportation project, including bike and pedestrian projects. Unfortunately, right now, most of that money, 72%, is going into road projects, a fact that is even more depressing given that only .9% of the state’s total transportation budget is spent on biking and walking. Also, ConnDOT recently rescinded $10 million of Federal Enhancements dollars, money generally allocated to bike and pedestrian projects, the same types of projects that Representative Kehoe is calling for.
While this response is saddening, more disturbing is the overall opposition to thinking ‘outside the box’ by ConnDOT leadership. Governor Rell set up the ConnDOT Reform Commission earlier this year with a mandate of creating “a more responsive, more responsible DOT and a DOT that will continue to broaden its focus beyond highways”, a call that Representative Kehoe clearly had in mind when he submitted his letters to Commissioner Carpenter. So far, ConnDOT hasn’t gotten the memo.
The ConnDOT Reform Commission is charged with sending a list of recommendations to Governor Rell by December 1st, and should, among other things, recommend that the agency spend much more on bike and pedestrian projects. If the state is going to combat sprawl with responsible growth, as Governor Rell hopes, ConnDOT will have to stop rebuffing elected officials’ requests for local biking and walking projects.