As President Obama was signing into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Denver last week, the Tri-State Campaign finally secured a copy of ConnDOT’s elusive “wish list” of stimulus projects. Advocates had been trying to obtain the list for months, but it proved as elusive as the island on Lost — that is, until last week, when the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green posted a summary of the state’s many stimulus wish lists. The Campaign was able to obtain an actual printed copy of ConnDOT’s list after numerous calls to ConnDOT and the Governor’s office.
The list (which is a draft subject to change at any time) contains 50 projects totaling more than $1.3 billion, almost three times the amount the state can expect to receive from the stimulus bill.
The good news is that the list is weighted heavily toward transit projects, with more than $704 million of the total ask for various Metro-North, Shore Line East, and bus projects. Almost half of that amount is for the New Haven Rail Yard. Other big sums are requested for the Danbury Line’s Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) system and the West Haven Railroad Station.
On the highway and bridge side, the vast majority of projects are maintenance or repair, which is good news, although a few minor widening projects have been included as well. In choosing which of the nearly $560 million in listed projects to fund, Governor Rell’s recently announced stimulus working group should keep in mind that Connecticut’s roads and bridges are ranked 10th-worst or 5th-worst in the nation, depending on the criteria, in terms of their condition. According to the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, road and bridge maintenance and repair projects create 9% more jobs than road or bridge widenings.
Noticeably missing from the list are bicycle and pedestrian projects. The stimulus bill provides $9 million in Transportation Enhancements funds (typically used for bicycle/pedestrian projects) for Connecticut. In the past Connecticut has been guilty of shifting Enhancements funding to fund highway programs, but the stimulus bill lacks the wiggle room inherent in SAFETEA-LU and previous federal transportation laws. This means that Connecticut will have to spend this Enhancements funding or risk losing it altogether. Considering the increasing demand for upgrading Connecticut’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure, we hope that ConnDOT puts this funding to good use.
Connecticut’s needs far outstrip the $440 million in transportation funding it will receive from the feds, so it is safe to say that some difficult choices lay ahead. Moving forward, Connecticut must find new and innovative ways, such as congestion pricing, to fund the smart transportation projects that do not receive stimulus dollars.
Image: Via Trainjotting.