It’s been said that life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
With the progress we’ve seen in the Nutmeg State during the last several months, the same could be said for transportation policy change in Connecticut.
At the outset of 2015, highway tolls were considered taboo, nobody knew what was on the governor’s long-term transportation agenda, there was no lockbox to stop raids on transportation funds, two-way and parking-protected bike lanes were illegal, and CTfastrak service still hadn’t launched. In six short months, however, all of that has changed.
Tolls and the long-term transportation vision
Back in February, Rep. Antonio Guerrera introduced a bill which would have paved the way for highway tolls at the state’s borders. Naturally the idea was met with resistance from people from communities like Danbury and Enfield, which would bear more of the burden than, say, Rocky Hill where Rep. Guerrera resides. Despite the bill’s flaws and a concerted effort to make tolls seem controversial and politically risky, the bill received a favorable report in the Transportation Committee (but never received a full vote).
Another reason tolls might not have fared well: it had until recently been unclear just how much revenue they could raise. But a report by consultant CDM Smith released late last month found that tolls could raise up to $62 billion over 25 years, more than half the total amount needed to fully finance Governor Malloy’s 30-year transportation vision. Governor Malloy “quickly distanced himself” from the report’s findings, but that’s to be expected: he’s waiting until the Transportation Finance Panel issues its recommendations before he backs any specific funding streams.
Just like the previous year, the 2015 legislative session ended without the passage of a lockbox for the Special Transportation Fund. But when it was announced there would be a special session, transportation advocates cheered when the governor promised to make the passage of a lockbox bill a top priority. And although the strongest lockbox would come in the form of a constitutional amendment, the statutory change, which says “the resources of [the Special Transportation Fund] shall be used solely for transportation purposes,” is certainly better than nothing.
Bike law reform
One major success that came out of the 2015 legislative session was the passage of bicycle law reform, which took effect on July 1. The updated statutes not only allow people on bikes to legally determine how to ride most safely, but also empower planners and engineers to design modern bicycle facilities like contraflow lanes.
MTR has covered the launch and early success of CTfastrak ad nauseam. Early numbers show that ridership has eclipsed projections, and last month the governor announced that an eastward expansion of the system would be complete within a year. And thanks to its distinction as the region’s first true bus rapid transit system, planners from outside Connecticut have begun to use the system as inspiration for their own BRT projects.
This kind of change is remarkable for taking place in just six months (and we haven’t even mentioned the “historic agreement” that will direct a half-cent of the sales tax to transportation). Here’s hoping the second half of 2015 brings just as much progress.