Have you been following the race for governor? I have, and I’m deeply disappointed. Almost none of them is talking about transportation. How can we create jobs, stop people from moving out of state, encourage entrepreneurs or do anything to save our economy when we are in a literal and political gridlock? How much time do you waste in bumper-to-bumper traffic getting to or from work?
“Why don’t we just ban all trucks from our interstate highways in rush hour?”
A mayor of a small Fairfield County town recently asked me this question. He’s a smart guy who obviously had given a lot of thought to resolving our traffic woes and believed he had the answer to the transportation crisis. He wasn’t in favor of tolls, but liked them as a traffic mitigation tool. Charging truck drivers more during rush hour would incentivize them to travel during other times of the day. He was just taking the idea a step further: ban them completely at certain hours.
I used to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and politicians. I actually thought the first two brought me gifts and the latter cared about me and my community. Well, those days are gone. We are now neck-deep in the primary round of campaigning for our state’s top officials and I hope you’ve been paying attention. The promises and the B.S. are piling up pretty fast, especially when it comes to the issue of transportation. A few candidates have been brave enough to endorse the idea of tolls while others just mouth vague platitudes like “we should have free-flowing traffic on I-95…”. No explanations of how or who’d pay for it, just the pandering promises. Why not a chicken in every pot, too? For the past few years I have had a standing offer to meet with anyone running for public office to talk about transportation. Republican, Democrat, independent … I don’t care. If you want to build an informed platform on this issue, I’ll give you the history and perspective and you take it from there. I’ll explain Metro-North’s complicated relationship with the Connecticut Department of Transportation. I’ll give you the facts about the pilfering of money from the Special Transportation Fund by both Republicans and Democrats. I know all this stuff, having immersed myself in it for over 20 years. And I know there are no easy answers.
The recent debate over tolling our highways should remind us of just how divided the state has become. It’s not red vs. blue and not even just upstate vs. downstate. The real divide is between those who commute by car vs.
State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker recently announced in a letter and news release that proposed fare increases and service reductions would “undo decades of investment in our transportation infrastructure and initiate an economic death spiral for our economy.”
Here’s the news release, issued Tuesday, April 24, followed by the letter:
In a letter to Governor Dannel P. Malloy sent on Friday, Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) Commissioner James P. Redeker provided an update on the recently held public hearings the department hosted and made clear that without action by the General Assembly to fix long-term issues with the Special Transportation Fund, CTDOT will have “no choice” but to raise rail and bus fares and cut transit service effective July 1, 2018. Commissioner Redeker added that he “cannot support” the proposed fare increases and service reductions because they would “undo decades of investment in our transportation infrastructure and initiate an economic death spiral for our economy.”
“However, I may have no choice,” Redeker wrote. “The obvious alternative to these draconian actions is to fully support the revenue needs of the Special Transportation Fund (STF) in this legislative session to fully avoid the fare and service cuts and to restore funding for the critical capital investments needed for our transportation system.”
Over the last several months, CTDOT held seven public hearings and nine community meetings around the state to gather public comment on the proposed changes in fares and service. More than 400 people attended and more than 650 comments were submitted in writing or by email. Virtually everyone opposed the plan; in one case, a petition with 4,625 signatures was submitted in opposition.