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Fix Transportation

Shorter version:

Connecticut must fix its costly, inadequate transportation system without tolls or other new taxes on workers by embracing several reforms:

1.) Liberalize regulations over construction and repairs to reduce costs and improve quality

2.) Prioritize high value investments like Metro-North and I-95 over other low-traffic ventures

3.) Borrow innovative best-practices and technology from other states and nations

4.) Audit the CT Department of Transportation for waste and inefficiencies to reduce its high per-unit costs

Longer version:

Connecticut has a poor transportation system but taxes its people more for it than all but two other states in the US. That means Hartford has given us the worst of all worlds and that new leadership needs to fix our transportation without new taxes or fees on people in our district or state. Consider these facts:

      • Connecticut has the 8th-worst road quality in the US, according to the Federal Highway Administration
      • Metro North is 17 minutes slower between Stamford and Grand Central than it was in 2000
      • Connecticut spends the 3rd-most per capita on transportation of any state, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers
      • Transportation spending increased 35 percent since 2000 after inflation, according to the state
      • Public transportation increased by 106 percent in that time
      • Connecticut spends by far the most of any state on administrative costs per highway mile, according to the Reason Foundation

The quality of infrastructure we receive from our state is bad, but the costs are far worse. That’s why we cannot accept the addition of tolls or any other taxes on top of the six types of taxes and fees we already pay to the hilt for transportation.

There is a better way to fix our transportation.

1.) Liberalize restrictions on who we can hire and pay for infrastructure projects to reduce costs and improve value. At the behest of Connecticut Democrats, infrastructure projects often include Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) which force taxpayers to use closed union shop labor for construction. According to one trade group against these regulations, that excludes roughly 80-85 percent of the entire state construction workforce from competing for projects.

Unfair oligopoly practices like that dramatically raise costs for taxpayers, destroy jobs for many workers, and reduce quality. Three studies on the effect of PLAs on school construction costs show that such restrictions can cost taxpayers 13 to 30 percent more to complete projects than a competitive process.

If Connecticut could save 20 percent on just half of its infrastructure projects, it could save nearly $200M per year with the same or better quality for citizens.

2.) We should prioritize high-value investments and stop spending on high-subsidy, low traffic ventures. The state government has often neglected the vital infrastructure in our district, including Metro North and I-95, in order to spend vast sums on other projects which few people use and taxpayers subsidize massively year after year.

For example, Metro North is the busiest rail line in the country and each rider is subsidized about $4 per ride. At the same time, Connecticut will subsidize each ride on the new Hartford rail line to Massachusetts nearly $147 all-in. That’s deeply unfair to our district and others footing the bill.

3.) Connecticut should use best practices from other countries and explore the use of more technology in construction. For instance, machines that rides slowly along railroad tracks and repairs or replaces them could be employed here to improve our track quality at low cost. Metro North could rely on fewer conductors to reduce cost as well. We could explore buying cheaper, lighter rail cars like Europe, which may also be able to travel faster. That plus super-re-elevation of railroad tracks, which is cheaper than straightening them outright, could make the trip from Connecticut to Grand Central much quicker at a reasonable cost.

4.) Finally, an independent analyst should study our highly inefficient Department of Transportation in order to find savings and improvements. It’s not acceptable that our roads cost the most in terms of administrative costs in the country. Nor is it right that simple structures like the Walk Bridge in Norwalk should cost several times more than similar ones in Europe. Connecticut is better than that and so we should require more from our bureaucracy.

Our transportation system in Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan is uniquely important. While our district is getting a horrible deal now, there is immense ability to improve Metro North, I-95, bridges, and other important local assets by reforming how Hartford works. That will be a priority of mine in the Senate.