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State to spend $1 billion on road, bridge projects

Published 7:41 am, Sunday, July 28, 2013
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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has announced a $1 billion initiative to repave and improve 250 miles of state roads and fix more than 40 bridges.

The State Bond Commission on Friday approved $537 million for transportation-related projects across the state, leveraging $600 million in federal funding. The $1 billion-plus program is expected to create or retain nearly 20,000 construction jobs.

The projects include resurfacing the Merritt Parkway in Stratford and Milford; already-promised funding for Stamford's new transportation center, and reconstructing Exits 5 and 6 on Interstate 84 and Route 37 in Danbury

"With this funding, we are investing in jobs for Connecticut residents, strengthening and updating our aging roadways and bridges, making travel safer and improving our transportation infrastructure to encourage economic development and attract new business to the state," Malloy said.

"I am committed to bringing our transportation system into the 21st century and, with the help of federal dollars, the funding allocated in this bond package is a large step toward that goal," the governor said.

State Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said the money will also repair dozens of state bridges.

"We continue to chip away at our bridge projects and have a backlog that goes back years," Redeker said. "We are now rolling out an additional 30 bridges. We have no bridges that are unsafe and we are addressing all of those that need repair this year."

He said most of the transportation projects will be put out to bid in the spring and should take about two years to complete.

"This funding directly supports our mission and commitment to the people of Connecticut to manage our roads, bridges, rails, buses and waterways and keep them as safe as possible," Redeker said.

Other projects include repaving Interstate 95 in Groton and I-84 in Vernon, widening I-84 in Waterbury between Exits 22 and 25A and continuing improvements to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge and I-95 harbor crossing in New Haven.

Overall, the state has identified about $8 billion worth of highway improvements and bridge repairs that are currently unfunded.

Responding to questions after the bond commission meeting, Malloy said the state's gasoline tax, despite bringing in less revenue lately because of more fuel-efficient cars and less overall driving, is able to cover the $537 million in bonding approved Friday.

Still, Malloy said the state will continue to study alternative funding sources for highway improvements, including tolls. While Malloy said he "didn't come here today to discuss tolls," the governor insisted he has "not shied away from it."

"We have begun a planning process to look at alternative ways to pay for projects. Why are gas taxes high? We don't have a tolling system and we don't have a refinery in the immediate area, so the cost of moving gasoline to the state is more expensive. Do we have to plan for the future? The answer is `yes,' " the governor said.

"When that process is completed, we will have looked at various ways to pay for those projects," he said.

The General Assembly earlier this year considered various bills to bring back tolls, including at entry points to the state. But a groundswell of opposition prompted lawmakers to instead back a study of new transportation funding sources.

Some of the transportation funding approved Friday will be used to help transform the Stamford Transportation Center into a complex of commercial space, residential apartments and retail stores.

"This funding enables us to continue to progress projects like Stamford's transportation-oriented development where a $35 million state investment can leverage over $500 million in private sector investment because of the proximity to highway and the train system," Redeker said.