Gov. Ned Lamont believes the state can no longer “kick the can down the road” when it comes to funding transportation in Connecticut.
Lamont and his administration will now move forward with a plan called CT2030 that they hope will improve the state’s transportation infrastructure and significantly cut down the time it takes the average commuter to get around the state.
“Right now, our gasoline tax is going this way and our costs are going this way, and they cross and they crash in about 2025,” Lamont said. “I’m not going to let [the state] legislature put [this] off any longer.”
He was speaking to a “transportation showcase” panel in Farmington that included representatives from major employers like The Jackson Laboratory and Mystic Seaport.
Why now? Lamont said that the Special Transportation Fund is expected to “crash” by 2025 and that the state can no longer rely on revenue streams like the gasoline tax to make necessary transportation fixes.
CT2030 includes “targeted enhancements” to I-95, I-84, and other major highways primarily by tolling cars 50 cents to $1, medium-sized trucks $1.25 to $2.50, and heavy-sized trucks $3.50 to $7. It also calls for $5.3 billion to improve rail service on Metro-North.
The plan immediately drew criticism from Republicans in the legislature.
“There are significant challenges with this plan,” said state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano.
He did commend the governor for building out a 10-year detailed vision for the necessary repair and upgrade work, including traffic chokepoints, failing bridges and rail improvements. “We could agree that that is something that makes sense. The issue comes down -- how to finance this thing?”
Republicans in the General Assembly have consistently opposed installing road tolls as a way to pay for infrastructure improvements.
LuAnn Ballesteros, vice president of external and government affairs for The Jackson Laboratory, complained during a panel portion of Lamont’s plan unveiling that it can take her more than seven hours to get to the Farmington office from her home in Bangor, Maine. While she noted that many of her Jax colleagues live close to the building in Farmington, she said that an improved commute could be attractive to potential recruits.
“I know that Jax is interested in expanding in the state in the coming years and as that expansion occurs, spreading out around the state is going to be a bigger issue, and the transportation piece is critical,” Ballesteros said. “I’ve never known of an infrastructure issue that got better but by waiting to address it.”
Retaining employees is always a concern for businesses, but that could be a bigger problem if employees find it hard to get to work. Ballesteros quoted the movie Field of Dreams to get her point across that the state must act on transportation infrastructure improvements.
“Kevin Costner says ‘if you build it, they will come.’ I’m going to say that if you don’t fix it, they will leave.”