Our obsession with automobiles is not only creating gridlock and ruining the quality of our air, but it’s eating up our real estate and sending land costs upward. Because, once we drive our cars off the crowded highways, we assume it’s our constitutional right to find “free parking.” Why are Connecticut’s towns slaves to antiquated zoning mentalities that assume all humans come with four tires rather than two legs? Why do we waste precious land on often-empty parking spots instead of badly needed affordable housing?
When 41 million hours of waiting and $860 million of lost earnings evaporate in the haze of I-95 traffic jams every year, we should be doing everything we can to make wise investments to relieve congestion and improve transit along the corridor. Although studies have shown highway expansion would not solve I-95 congestion, Gov. Dannel Malloy has made expansion of the I-95 part of his 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan “Let’s Go CT!”
Nobody likes the idea of paying tolls. But tolls are coming back to Connecticut and I just wish that lawmakers in Hartford would be honest with us about why. We are running out of money for the Special Transportation Fund, that’s why. And none of the re-funding alternatives are attractive: vehicle miles tax, sales tax, gas tax and yes, tolls. But tolls on our highways would not be a tax.
Enjoying a speedy (148 mph) ride to Boston recently on Acela, I started thinking about the differences between Amtrak and Metro-North. Both are railroads, but each has a different mission. Still, there are a few things Metro-North could learn from its national counterpart.
Building and maintaining our highways is expensive. But here’s a quiz question: on interstates 95 and 84, what costs a half-million dollars a mile to construct? The answer: sound barriers. Why are we spending that kind of money to enshroud our interstates simply to protect the peace and quiet of their neighbors? Didn’t they know that living that close to a highway came with the twin costs of increased noise and air pollution along with the benefits of proximity to the highways?
The recent proposal by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to improve Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and the incoming President’s concern with the poor quality of American passenger railroads provide a major opportunity for the Metropolitan Hartford region and Connecticut as a whole to better connect to Boston and New York City, strengthening our position in the regional and world economy.
As a young transportation engineer I have been stunned and saddened to read about the spate of pedestrian collisions throughout this state. In a recent six-day span, eight people were hit, and six were killed, on Connecticut roads. These terrible collisions have led many in the community to plead with drivers to slow down and to put their phones away in this holiday season. I could not agree more. Putting your phone down and taking your foot off the gas could make the difference in saving a life. However, this plea doesn’t go far enough.
Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to widen I-95 to alleviate traffic congestion and has commissioned a $1.2 million study to support the idea. But I found a similar study from 2004 that looked at the idea and rejected it for a number of reasons. Why are the governor and CDOT re-studying the same issue and spending valuable tax dollars to do so? Because the first study rejected their widening idea completely and they don’t like that answer.
U.S. Rep. John Larson recently proposed a massive $10 billion project to drill through miles of shale, sandstone, and basalt under Hartford for two new highway tunnels without any traffic study showing it would reduce congestion. This is one of numerous frivolous proposals that would waste precious taxpayer dollars without meeting the 21st Century needs of hardworking families in Connecticut.
Imagine you’re in a store and you see somebody shoplifting. You’re embarrassed to say anything or to make a scene, but inside you’re pissed-off. You pay for your merchandise, so why should that guy get it for free? And if he’s ripping off the store, doesn’t the merchant actually make you pay more to make up for that loss? It’s morally wrong and it’s just not fair. Yet this is what happens every single day on Metro-North when conductors don’t collect all riders’ tickets.