OPINION: Connecticut residents have reason to question on money is spent

OPINION: Connecticut residents have reason to question on money is spent



Were there an award for missing the point, the Malloy administration would be a winner this week.

In an article appearing Wednesday headlined “Highways among worst in nation,” the Record-Journal’s Matthew Zabierek outlined The Reason Foundation’s 23rd annual report on the nation’s highway system, which found Connecticut ranking 46th among all states.

While noting the report results “should come as a surprise to no one,” Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said “without new revenue that problem will only get worse.”

“For decades, Connecticut has failed to make the kind of investments necessary for a top-notch transportation system, and as a result our roads and bridges are in desperate need of improvements,” he said.

But the report, based on information submitted in 2015, finds Connecticut already spending a lot, as in $497,659 per mile of highway that year, putting the state 44th among all states and spending $320,000 more than the national average.

Connecticut spent more than any state in administrative disbursements per mile, which does not include project costs but “general and main office expenditures in support of state-administered highways.”

So, as Zabierek put it: “Despite relatively higher spending, the state ranked near the bottom in several categories measuring infrastructure quality ...”

While government typically points to the need for more revenue, state residents increasingly have reason to question how money is being spent. That’s an answer that would have been more to the point.

As Meriden resident Lou Arata mentioned in an opinion piece Sunday, Connecticut in 2015 spent “an astounding $99,417 per mile” in administrative costs for transportation projects. “That’s over 9 times the national average,” Arata noted.

Now, Connecticut is not North Dakota, the top-ranked state based on performance and cost-effectiveness. Situated between Boston and New York City, Connecticut’s infrastructure challenges are more complex and challenging.

It’s no surprise that the nation’s most populated states have the most infrastructure woes, as the report shows. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and California are among the states that join Connecticut in ranking low.

On the Reason Foundation’s map, Connecticut is a red state — perhaps a first! — except that it doesn’t signify political leaning but low performance (called “very bad” on the web site at reasong.org.) when it comes to highway systems.

And Connecticut was not last. That distinction fell to New Jersey. Connecticut also did rank well in safety, with the sixth lowest fatality rate in 2015.

However:

“Try to drive to New York some time.”

So said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, the Berlin Democrat, during a legislative forum held at the Aqua Turf in Southington earlier this week.

“Many of our current bridges and roads are failing, and we have to turn that trend around,” he said.

As the Connecticut Mirror reported, Aresimowicz proposed turning the situation over to a transportation authority. The authority would do for transportation what the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority does for energy.

That would take the issue of transportation out of election-year politics, but critics like House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Derby Republican, called it an abdication, which is a point well taken.

Because something as crucial as repairing Connecticut’s infrastructure is going to need a lot of public support, and in a democracy public support is gained in an election.

As an election-year issue, at least, Connecticut transportation should rank near the top.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com.


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