Major transit projects on Malloy's bonding agenda
Published 5:15 pm, Thursday, February 17, 2011
Benjamin Barnes, Malloy's secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said the major commitment to transportation that the governor will propose to the General Assembly on Wednesday would overhaul the state's aging infrastructure while creating important construction jobs.
In his capital budget, Malloy will ask for special bond authorizations totaling $572.3 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and $515.2 million in the following year. He has planned another $50 million in general obligation bonds for transit over that period.
The projects include:
$50 million over the two years for harbor improvements, including dredging in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London, to support economic growth.
$227 million to fully fund the state Department of Transportation's priority repair efforts, including $66 million a year for bridges and $39 million a year for highways.
$196 million to maintain bus and rail infrastructure, above and beyond current funding levels.
$35 million for the DOT parking garage at the Stamford Transportation Center.
$10 million for the Atlantic Street underpass in Stamford.
Malloy also wants a commitment to use $800 million in previously allocated funds to be distributed when projects are ready.
Some of the capital projects include items already under way, such as rebuilding the Moses Wheeler Bridge on Interstate 95 linking Stratford and Milford.
"The aim of the funding is to become more aggressive in maintaining and improving the transportation infrastructure so people can get to work and foster business growth," Barnes said in an interview.
Barnes acknowledged that the long-delayed plans to free Bridgeport Harbor from decades of accumulated silt that prevents larger vessels from entering is problematic. Approval from the Army Corps of Engineers is a major obstacle, exacerbated by the need for a disposal site for the contaminated silt.
"It is true that doing the dredging is enormously challenging because the participation of the Army Corps of Engineers and disposing the spoils," Barnes said.
"It's going to be a priority of ours to see our ports will be better utilized. I will be the first to acknowledge there may be concerns about difficulties to do dredging, but we will also support other harbor improvements that may not be as difficult to undertake."
The DOT's $227 million "Fix-it-First" program includes major bridge repairs, maintenance and drainage programs. By using state money instead of federal grants, the work can proceed much faster, without bureaucratic issues that stall some projects. Construction could start this summer, Barnes said.
"The DOT has had some problems moving projects in a timely manner," Barnes said.
Other programs include funding for cleaning environmentally contaminated DOT sites, more money for DOT facilities and an adjustment to existing road resurfacing bond authorizations.
The General Assembly authorizes capital spending, but it is the State Bond Commission, controlled by the governor, that allocates funding supported by the state's long-term debt, which is a $1.7 billion item in the current $19 billion state budget.
The $800 million in previously allocated funds include $80 million for new rail cars that are scheduled for approval at the next State Bond Commission meeting. The state's share of further funding for the New Haven Rail Yard project and the new Moses Wheeler Bridge over the Housatonic River is expected to be about $390 million.