Bike Bill Passes, but Connecticut Legislative Session Expires Without Votes on Lockbox, Tolls or TOD

Connecticut’s 2015 legislative session wrapped up Wednesday, and there’s some good news, and some not-so-good news, to report on the transportation-related bills we’ve been tracking.

Bike Bill

The Connecticut General Assembly last month passed SB502, also known as the “bike bill,” which gives people on bikes more freedom in determining how to ride most safely, and removes and updates language in existing statues to allow for more flexible, modern bicycle facility design. Tri-State, along with the New Haven Department of Transportation, Bike Walk Connecticut and the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, worked with legislators and the Connecticut Department of Transportation to craft the bill.

One of the most important items addressed by the bike bill is a provision which forces people on bikes to ride “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable,” with only a few exceptions. The updated language has replaced “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable” with “as close to the right side of the roadway as is safe, as judged by the bicyclist.” 

The bill lists a number of exceptions to riding on the right. Three notable additions: a “take the lane” provision for when the roadway is too narrow for a bicyclist and motor vehicle to travel safely side by side, another which allows bicyclists to ride of the left side of a one-way street, and another for when riding in designated bicycle facilities, “including, but not limited to, contra-flow bicycle lanes, lefthanded cycle tracks or bicycle lanes on one-way streets and two-way cycle tracks or bicycle lanes.”

Because the bike bill essentially “legalizes” modern bicycle facilities like contra-flow lanes, left-side bike lanes and two-way cycle tracks, advocates and legislators thought it prudent to include a reference to the design guidelines published by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), which is on the cutting edge of innovative street and bicycle facility design. Connecticut has not officially endorsed NACTO’s design guidelines, but their inclusion in the bill makes it clear that the Department of Transportation ought to look beyond the AASHTO Green Book when implementing its Complete Streets policy.

The bike bill also addresses the language related to on-street parking to make room for parking-protected bike lanes like those commonly seen in New York City. The current law states that the tires of parked vehicles must “be within a distance of twelve inches from the curb.” The bike bill adds an exception which says vehicles must be parked within 12 inches of the curb, unless there’s a designated bike lane between the curb and the parking lane, then it should be parked within 12 inches of the bike lane’s buffer area.

SB502 passed the Senate 33-0 and the House 139-6 — not a controversial bill by any means. And Governor Malloy was in New Haven just a few months ago talking about the importance of bicycle connectivity, so we’re optimistic he will sign the bike bill into law.

Special Transportation Fund Lockbox

It’s been an interesting week for transportation funding in Connecticut. First, Governor Malloy announced “the largest investment in transportation in Connecticut history,” only to have it revealed a day later that the net increase in funding is a modest $65 million over two years. In his announcement, the governor said the Special Transportation Fund lockbox — which had bipartisan support — was expected to pass, but the legislative session ended with neither the governor’s bill nor the joint resolution receiving a full vote.

There’s still some hope that legislators could secure the transportation fund: talk in Hartford about an “implementer bill,” which can be passed in a special session (beginning today), might be adjusted to include lockbox language.

Tolls

While tolls aren’t nearly as controversial as some Connecticut politicians would like the public to believe, the tolling bill never received a full vote in either house. This isn’t much of a surprise: lawmakers were warned in February that tolls would be a non-starter if they couldn’t pass a lockbox bill first.

The good news here is that a conversation about tolling has begun. Here’s hoping the conversation will continue to evolve beyond the idea of putting old fashioned toll booths at the state’s borders.

Transit Corridor Development Authority

The Connecticut Transit Corridor Development Authority bill, which would have created “an 11-member body that would work with towns and regional planners to spur [transit-oriented] development,” was stripped of its most controversial elements but didn’t garner enough support to see a full vote in either house.

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