At some point, once informed by the outcomes of studies, action is needed. Over the past two decades, there has been a stream of studies on the importance of the state’s transportation infrastructure — all concluding that additional investment is essential.
In 1999, the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century completed the “Connecticut Strategic Economic Framework,” which concluded that investing in a hearty transportation system would create a competitive advantage and stated that we need to resolve, “the congested, locked transportation systems that effect not only the region [Southwestern CT], but also the remainder of the State.” This report warned that, absent a new approach to meet transportation needs, Connecticut was in danger of becoming an economic “cul-de-sac.” Had we acted then, we would be in less of a predicament today.
Again, in 2011, the State’s Transportation Strategy Board, issued a “Strategic Framework for Investing in CT’s Transportation Infrastructure.” This framework, again, recognized the importance of our transportation system and advised investment: “while our fiscal and economic challenges may seem overwhelming, a program of increased but strategic investments can yield a large benefit to Connecticut’s economy…the risks of not acting are even greater.”
A phased increase in revenue sources was endorsed, “the state needs a consistent and stable source of funding that is available on an annual basis.” This report also recommended an increase in the gasoline tax and electronic tolling to fund transportation. Had we acted then, we would be in less of a predicament today.
Again, in 2016, the Governor’s Finance Panel — a group with expertise in economic development, transportation and finance — recommended new revenue sources to support transportation systems, including an increase in the gas tax, noting, “[it’s the] largest and most important revenue component in the Special Transportation Fund (STF).” And, “Times have changed, tolls are collected in an entirely different, far less obtrusive way than in the past and Connecticut stands out from the rest of the northeast as an outlier because of its lack of tolls on major interstate highways.”
The panel warned, “If Connecticut wants to be economically competitive in the near future, the cost of doing nothing is far too severe.” If we had acted then, we would be in less of a predicament today.
Again, on March 1, 2018, the State’s Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Development advised that, “In order to maintain Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure and to enhance economic growth, substantial additional capital expenditures are required as well as dedicated revenue streams.” This group – comprised of prominent business leaders and entrepreneurs — recommends new revenue streams to the STF, including an increase in the gasoline tax and electronic tolls.
Four studies, four warnings about the consequences of doing nothing and four sets of similar recommendations. It is time to act — during this legislative session — to restore the State Transportation Fund to meet our immediate needs and to commit to a diverse and sustainable stream of funding to meet our long-term transportation, economic and quality-of-life needs. Let’s act for — not against — prosperity.
Douglas Holcomb is General Manager of Greater Bridgeport Transit.