Highway Expansion Must Not Supplant Connecticut’s Multi-Modal Progress

Governor Malloy in Waterbury yesterday. | Photo: Waterbury Republican-American

Governor Dan Malloy in Waterbury yesterday. | Photo: Waterbury Republican-American

Governor Dan Malloy announced Connecticut’s five-year transportation capital infrastructure plan for federal fiscal years 2014-2018 yesterday. The plan allocates roughly $4.825 billion for roads and bridges over the five-year period, and $1.565 billion for transit. (Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects are included in the road and bridge category). In fiscal year 2014, $1.8 billion in capital funding will be available for all transportation modes ($1.4 billion for road and bridge projects, and $345 million for transit), an increase over the state’s 2013 Capital Program, which provided a total of approximately $1.6 billion.

The plan lists several pages of transportation investments, including a few high-profile projects like the replacement of the I-84 viaduct in Hartford, the rehabilitation of the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, and upgrades to the New Haven commuter rail line and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor.

The governor made the announcement at a park-and-ride lot in Waterbury, a setting that was meant to highlight a major component of the infrastructure plan: the widening of 2.7-miles of Interstate 84. The project, which ConnDOT first announced in 2013, adds a lane in each direction to Interstate 84 between Exit 23 and 25A in Waterbury, and is expected to cost $400 to $450 million – almost as much as the total amount of federal highway funding Connecticut receives in a single year.

» Continue reading…

ConnDOT Seeks Federal Funds for Northeast Corridor, Metro-North Resiliency

The Walk Bridge in Norwalk. | Photo: nec-commission.com

The Walk Bridge in Norwalk. | Photo: nec-commission.com

Some major resiliency projects could be on the way for southwestern Connecticut. Governor Dannel Malloy announced this week that the Connecticut Department of Transportation is applying for $600 million in federal transportation funding that would be divided among three key components of the state’s transportation infrastructure:

Walk Bridge Replacement Project  ConnDOT is applying for $349 million to pay for the bulk of the cost of replacing the Walk Bridge in Norwalk. The Walk Bridge is a “balky“ 118-year-old swing bridge on the Northeast Corridor which “has experienced increased deterioration since its construction.” The State would replace the Walk Bridge with “a more resilient bascule bridge.”

New Haven Line communications and signaling  ConnDOT is also seeking $245 million to fund the replacement of communications and signaling equipment on Metro-North’s much-maligned New Haven Line. According to the governor’s press release, the current communications and signaling system is 35 years old and “well past its useful life, with its poor condition exacerbated by winds and flooding.”

» Continue reading…

USDOT: Highway Trust Fund Shortfall Anticipated for Late July

It seems likely the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account will run out of money in late July, According to the US Department of Transportation. | Image: USDOT

It seems likely the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account will run out of money in late July, According to the US Department of Transportation. | Image: USDOT

It’s not only states that are running out of money to fund transportation projects; the federal government is too.

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund Ticker, updated last Sunday, it is likely that the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account will run out of money in late July, just over a month before federal fiscal year 2014 ends. The Highway Trust Fund “is the principal mechanism for funding federal highway and transit programs” through revenue generated by user fees like the federal gas tax. The Highway Account is projected to end the fiscal year in September 2014 $700 million in the hole. Politico notes that the newly-updated Tracker shows a shortfall “two weeks earlier than last month’s figures, which showed the anticipated red ink in the second or third week of August.”

» Continue reading…

States Spend on Expansion While Roads Decay

According to Repair Priorities 2014, most state DOTs “are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have.” | Image: Smart Growth America

With people driving less and federal largesse not what it used to be, it would make sense for state departments of transportation to shift away from building [...]

Strong Showing for Connecticut’s Vulnerable User Bill and Lockbox Amendment

vu-fact-sheet

Image: Bike Walk Connecticut

Advocates made a strong showing for Connecticut’s vulnerable user bill (SB336) at last Wednesday’s public hearing of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Transportation Committee. Also with strong support in the committee: A resolution (SJ23) which would begin the process of amending the state’s constitution to safeguard transportation funds.

The safety bill would define a “vulnerable user” of the road as a pedestrian, cyclist, animal rider, highway worker, tractor operator, a blind person and his or her service animal, wheelchair user, or a rider of a skateboard, skates, or scooter. It would levy a fine of up to $1,000 for careless drivers who injure or kill a vulnerable user, provided that the vulnerable user was using the road with care. Twenty-three organizations are listed as supporters of the bill and are working together to support its passage. The bill unanimously passed the Senate last year, but it did not receive a vote in the House.

At the hearing, TSTC Senior Planner Steven Higashide cited testimony from Kirsten BechtelKaren Santucci and Antonio Riera, pediatric emergency doctors from Yale Medical School who wrote in support of the legislation. A volunteer from the Connecticut Horse Council and Bike Walk Connecticut’s Kelly Kennedy also testified in person. Notably, the Connecticut DOT also submitted a supportive statement, saying that the vulnerable user bill was “in line with the department’s mission to provide…a safe and efficient multi-modal transportation system.” In total, 39 organizations and individuals, including Transit for Connecticut, AARP, ConnPIRG, and the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association submitted testimony in support of the bill. No testimony was submitted in opposition.

» Continue reading…

Mapping New York Pedestrian Fatalities and the Legislative Districts Where They Occur

Between 2010 and 2012, more than 900 pedestrians were killed on roads in New York State. To highlight how broad-based these fatalities are, Tri-State released an online map that shows the locations of New York* pedestrian fatalities with clickable layers that display boundaries for counties, congressional districts and state legislative districts. Viewers can turn these administrative boundary [...]

Annual Transit Ridership Grows, but Not on Long Island

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released its annual overview of transit ridership in the United States today, and by and large the news across the country was good. According to the report:

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years[...]This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

In New York, annual transit ridership growth largely mirrored national patterns. The Long Island Rail Road saw annual growth of over 2 percent, and even Metro-North, which had a year that Connecticut General Assembly Transportation Chair Representative Tony Guerrera aptly described as ”appalling,” still saw growth of .6 percent.

Ridership grew by 3.6 percent in New York City; in Westchester County, ridership on the County’s Bee-Line bus system grew by over 1.5 percent.

In New Jersey, ridership on the Port Authority’s transit systems grew by .47 percent and ridership on NJ Transit grew by 1.54 percent.

The lone blemish on the region’s widespread transit ridership growth was Long Island’s bus systems, with both Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) and Suffolk County Transit (SCT) experiencing ridership drops in 2013. With a ridership drop of almost 2.4 percent, NICE ridership fell to its lowest level since 1998. In Suffolk County, ridership fell by just over 3 percent, resulting in the system’s lowest annual ridership since 2005.

» Continue reading…

Fairfield County Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities Highlight the Need for Safety Improvements

Stamford and Bridgeport had the highest per capita crash rates in Fairfield County (6.45 and 6.44, respectively), based on a yearly crash rate per 10,000 residents. Source: TSTC

Stamford and Bridgeport had the highest per capita crash rates in Fairfield County (6.45 and 6.44, respectively), based on a yearly crash rate per 10,000 residents. Source: TSTC

Thanks to data recently made available by the Connecticut Departments of Public Safety and Transportation via the University of Connecticut Crash Data Repository, TSTC was able to map and analyze both pedestrian deaths and injuries in Connecticut for the first time.

The Fairfield County Pedestrian Crash Analysis found that during the three-year period from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012, there were 1,022 vehicle crashes involving pedestrians in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Of those crashes, 951 resulted in injuries, and 28 were confirmed fatal. These crashes resulted in a total of 1,077 pedestrian injuries and 34 deaths.

In addition to mapping the locations of these crashes, the analysis also identifies the five most dangerous roads in the county: US Route 1 topped the list with 169 pedestrian crashes, followed by CT Route 130 (43), CT Route 137 (30), Main Street in Bridgeport (30), and CT Route 127 (29). Building off TSTC’s Most Dangerous Roads analysis released earlier this month, the Fairfield analysis found that the County’s most dangerous roads share common characteristics of dangerous arterial roads that were identified throughout the region—wide, multi-lane roads that enable high speeds and have little to no pedestrian infrastructure.

» Continue reading…

Could the New Haven Line’s Problems Be Hurting Connecticut’s Economy?

Commuters filled a "Speakout" at the Pequot Library in Southport, hosted by the Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby on February 18. | Photo: Steven Higashide/TSTC.

Commuters filled a “Speakout” at the Pequot Library in Southport, hosted by the Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby on February 18. | Photo: Steven Higashide/TSTC.

Over 100 commuters came to an occasionally raucous “Commuter Speakout” hosted by the Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby in Southport last Tuesday night. The event was organized in response to a series of incidents and increasing delays on Metro-North’s New Haven Line. On-time performance on the railroad, which had hovered around 95 percent for many years, fell to 80 percent in February.

“We are well aware of our failure to provide the service you deserve,” said John Kesich, Metro-North’s senior vice president of operations. Also in attendance were ConnDOT Commissioner Jim Redeker and rail administrator Eugene Colonese; Sue Doering, Metro-North’s senior director of service and stations; and Anne Kirsch, Metro-North’s director of safety and security.

The Speakout came one day after Metro-North’s new president, Joseph Giuletti, appeared at a press conference with Governor Malloy, Commissioner Redeker, and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast. There, the officials promised to deliver a “100-day action plan” to the governor in the coming weeks. At the Speakout, Commissioner Redeker said the 100-day plan would include a safety review, a review of major projects, a new communications plan, and a simpler customer complaint interface.

Riders at the Speakout cited a litany of complaints including broken heaters, stranded trains, missed connections and standing-room-only conditions. But perhaps the most pointed line of criticism came from several commuters and elected officials who said the series of incidents was hurting the state’s economy and reputation. A realtor said that potential clients were mentioning the railroad’s faults. A new resident of Stamford said he had warned friends not to move to Connecticut. And State Senator Toni Boucher (one of several state legislators in attendance) warned that Connecticut has been losing population in recent years and can’t afford to lose any more.

» Continue reading…

The Region’s Freeways Without Futures

Earlier this month, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) released its 2014 Freeways Without Futures report, which lists the top opportunities in North America for replacing aging urban highways with boulevards or avenues that connect with local street networks.

2014 Freeways Without Futures

2012 Freeways Without Futures 

I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans 

I-81, Syracuse, NY

Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, NY

Inner Loop, Rochester, NY

I-70, St. Louis

I-280, San Francisco

I-375, Detroit

Terminal Island Freeway, Long Beach

Aetna Viaduct, Hartford, CT

I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans

I-895/Sheridan Expressway, Bronx, NYC

Route 34/Oak Street Connector, New Haven, CT

Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, NY

I-395/Overtown Expressway, Miami

I-70, St. Louis

West Shoreway, Cleveland

I-490/Inner Loop, Rochester, NY

I-81, Syracuse, NY

Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

Although the list includes freeways throughout North America, 40 percent of the list is made up of opportunities in New York and Connecticut (show in bold). Three of the projects in particular (highlighted in red) also showed up on the 2012 list.

Connecticut has a newcomer in Hartford’s Aetna Viaduct, which the local government has explored alternatives for, but has eliminated the boulevard option. As planning continues to move forward, officials should consider how they can encourage Interstate 84 users to switch modes to alleviate traffic and expand the potential alternatives to include a roadway that is more appropriate for downtown Hartford’s urban landscape. Mode shift in central Connecticut will be a more realistic goal after the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor is completed, and especially after the CTfastrak BRT system — which has six stations along I-84 near the viaduct – opens in 2015.

» Continue reading…