While Tri-State is making progress administering our One Region Funders’ Group supported transit-oriented development (TOD) grants, the state of Connecticut’s TOD program is getting off to a much slower start. Over a year and a half after the Connecticut General Assembly included $10 million for TOD grants in a two-year bonding bill, none of that money has been released by the State Bond Commission.
Sources indicate that recommended recipients for TOD grants were submitted by ConnDOT to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), the agency tasked with staffing the bond commission, over a year ago. This delay is particularly troubling given the demand for TOD and smart growth initiatives throughout the state. In Connecticut alone, eleven municipalities submitted letters of interest for Tri-State’s relatively small program. Although there were many qualified candidates, Tri-State was able to support only one Connecticut project, awarding $50,000 to the Town of Stratford. $10 million could go a long way.
If that is not motivation enough, the Federal Transit Administration’s recently released New Starts Annual Report awarded the Hartford-New Britain Busway a “medium” overall rating, which makes it eligible to receive federal funds. But one of the reasons the busway earned this rating was because of Connecticut’s supportive land use policies, including the TOD grant program (which is specifically cited in the FTA report; see pages A101-106.) To maintain or improve the busway’s rating, Connecticut should be doing all it can to ensure that land use around the proposed busway corridor stations is transit-oriented and dense enough to justify transit service. Releasing TOD bond money is one way to do this.
Governor Jodi Rell and OPM Secretary Robert Genuario need to make releasing the TOD grants a priority. Governor Rell has spoken often about the need to promote TOD and smart growth, even creating an Office of Responsible Growth nearly three years ago. Now is the time to put words into action. Unfortunately, the State Bond Commission recently canceled its scheduled May 29 meeting, so any action on releasing the TOD grants has been postponed until the Commission’s June 26 meeting at the earliest.
Image: Map of the planned Hartford-New Britain Busway route.