State Not Addressing Many Transportation Issues
Last week, the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee voted to throw out a proposed gas tax that would have helped to pay for a multimillion dollar transportation plan proposed by Governor Rell. The plan itself remained largely unchanged, with money earmarked for specific road improvements shuffled around to other projects identified by the Transportation Strategy Board. Rell's plan focuses on adding over 300 cars to Metro North's New Haven Line, and making improvements to I-95.
This is a small step in the right direction, but leaves the state dealing with a host of unresolved transportation issues. Here is a partial list of problems and possible solutions (feel free to add your own):
1. Route 11. Weren't we supposed to finish this thing twenty years ago? Every election season candidates campaign on a promise to "finish Route 11," but so far the bridges over CT-82 in Salem still lead to dirt trails instead of I-95. Southeastern Connecticut could use the economic boost the finished road would provide, especially given recent events.
2. Route 6. Wetland issues and NIMBYs have held up the building of a planned expressway for decades, while people continue to die on "Suicide 6." An expressway linking I-384 and the US-6 expressway in Willimantic would be a benefit for eastern Connecticut. Let's find a solution now.
3. I-95 in Fairfield County. Probably the biggest transportation nightmare in the state. Fairfield County is a parking lot during rush hour: how can this be fixed? Rell's proposal to add cars to Metro North is a good start, but are there other solutions? Adding yet another lane is probably not the solution, since traffic will continue to increase beyond the roadway's capacity. Decent local public transportation might be a start. Would putting the tolls back in force people on to the trains and buses?
4. Hartford County. Public transportation in most of Hartford County is terrible at best. The New Britain-Hartford busway is stalled, last I heard, and it really wasn't all that great of an idea to begin with. Why tear up train tracks to put in a bus line? Why not have, say, trains? Light rail ideas like the Griffin Line north of the city have been floated for years without any solution or serious proposals. Traffic, in the meantime, is getting worse. A proposed commuter rail line between New Haven and Springfield may help, especially by constructing new stations in Newington and Enfield.
5. I-84 . I-84 is a mess in the western part of the state. This is a major national thoroughfare now, especially for truckers, and it should be treated as one. Adding another lane and making other improvements to interchanges, etc., is necessary.
There are many others I've left off this list, like the enticing possiblity of building a bridge across the Sound, but feel free to comment on them.
A wise mix of improvements and upgrades to public transportation and traditional highway systems will help to improve our quality of life and to keep Connecticut economically viable. Like it or not, highways and other forms of transportation drive economic growth, and should be one of our top priorities.