GOP Viewpoint: Road worries … again

Gov. Malloy’s Transportation Commissioner James Redeker took his Chicken Little routine on the road and in each community, he proclaimed that the Special Transportation Fund sky is falling and only tolls and tax increases can save us. He set the stage for Redeker’s appearances when he announced the indefinite suspension of nearly 400 repair and improvement projects. It appears he intends to maximize commuters’ pain to lower their resistance to giving the state even more money than they already do.

Many of my Democrat colleagues are ready to join the Governor and commissioner on the toll train. They have been laying the track for several years and readily point to surrounding states suggesting we are ignoring a vast funding resource, but before we start spending that imaginary toll money, we should look at how we spend the money we have.

A 2016 study by the Reason Foundation found that Connecticut ranked 44th in cost effectiveness for highway performance. Fact: Connecticut spends nearly $480,000 for each mile of road in the state versus the national average of $160,000 per mile.

I’m sure we all agree the condition of Connecticut’s pothole riddled roadways don’t seem to reflect this high price tag. Last I checked, the streets were not paved with gold, so, if we aren’t paying a high price for superior quality, where does all the money go?

The Reason Foundation said that administrative costs significantly contribute to the price. Connecticut spent $83,000 per mile in administrative costs compared to $10,000 per mile nationally, so if we subtract the administrative costs, Connecticut still outspends the national average by more than $250,000 per mile.

Contrast the fact that the $155 million the state bonded in 2016 for the Springfield line would have covered the costs for repairs needed for the Metro-North New Haven Line. The busway and Springfield line were part of the Governor’s 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan he began to implement without any established way to pay for it.

How can the administration and legislators go to Connecticut taxpayers again and ask for more money when it doesn’t responsibly spend the money it has? How can they proclaim tolls are the answer to the state’s transportation funding when a comprehensive study on tolls has not been done? And above all, how can they do it with a straight face?

Before we consider tolls, Connecticut needs to take an extensive look at how transportation projects are prioritized and how the cost of projects are calculated. We must also look at the projected costs for projects compared to the final price tag. What changed and why? How do we make the process more efficient?

Connecticut taxpayers are paying top dollar for a transportation system with more than 57% of all state and local roads in poor condition. Another 22% of roads are in mediocre condition.

Throwing more money into the Special Transportation fund before we examine and resolve our spending issues is the height of irresponsibility. We have a lot of work to do before we can consider asking Connecticut taxpayers to step on the toll train.

State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) is co-chairman of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.