On Wednesday, Governor Malloy announced two legislative proposals aimed at reducing the backlog of deficient local bridges and speeding up local transportation projects. It’s a good start, but if the proposals do become law, they should be implemented in a way that cuts red tape while also putting the State in a better position to enforce complete streets requirements.
One proposal would create a Local Transportation Capital Program in which the State provides funding to municipalities, and then gets reimbursed by the federal government. It’s a more streamlined process compared to the current protocol, which requires the federal funds first go to ConnDOT, and then to cities and towns.
In exchange for this major reduction in administrative burdens, the State should prioritize projects that are in line with a complete streets philosophy. Under the Connecticut complete streets law, projects receiving state funds must consider accommodations for all users of the road, including pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.
Another of the governor’s proposals aims to reduce the number of deficient municipal bridges by providing new funds and streamlining requirements for the State’s Local Bridge Program. The program covers up to a third of the cost of fixing locally-owned bridges.
Connecticut made a significant investment in its bridges after the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge in 1983. But in more recent years, the percentage of the state’s bridges considered structurally deficient has gradually increased. As a ConnDOT official told the Connecticut Mirror:
“You’ll find that the investment that the state made after the Mianus River Bridge had a dramatic improvement,” said Tom Maziarz, director of the agency’s Bureau of Policy and Planning. “The number of bridges in poor condition dropped dramatically…what we’re starting to see some evidence of now, is that we’re seeing some very small creep back towards that direction.”
“I don’t want to suggest it’s anywhere close to what it was in 1980s, but we’re not continuing to invest in quite the same level as we did previously.”
As with the Local Transportation Capital Program, the State should ensure that local bridge projects stick to the complete streets philosophy. The current Local Bridge Program guidance is clear that funds can be used for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure that is part of a bridge project, but it does not mention the complete streets law.