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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Talking Transportation: July Gas Tax Increase

By Jim Cameron

Special to WestportNow

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Mianus River Bridge collapse, which killed three people. 

WestportNow.com Image

That accident on I-95 in Greenwich was attributed to years of neglected inspections and maintenance, the inevitable result of penny-pinching in Hartford.

Will the recent Metro-North crash (which injured 76 passengers) also be tied to long-postponed repairs?

Last week, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT)  commissioner testified before U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal that Connecticut has spent $3.2 billion in the last decade on the New Haven rail line, while Amtrak spent just $64 million.  And all that spending still couldn’t prevent the May 17 derailment.

But Commissioner James Redeker also said there’s another $4.5 billion needed to bring the line into a “state of good repair” in the short term. That includes work on the catenary and replacement of four movable bridges, some of them 100-plus years old. 

Layer on top of this $130 million to meet the federal mandate for PTC (Positive Train Control), and you can see the problem. Where’s the money to come from? 
Well, it will come from you and me. On July 1, we will all start paying an additional 4 cents per gallon for gasoline, tax money that will go into the Special Transportation Fund (STF), supposedly to be spent on rails and roads.

But remember that it was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy who (again) balanced this year’s state budget by raiding $110 million from that STF, something that, as a candidate, he swore he would never do. Voters will decide if that makes Malloy a hypocrite—or just a pragmatist.

Either way, future governors won’t be able to do it again as the legislature has voted to put the STF into an untouchable “lock box” starting in 2015, after the next election.

Over the past decade various lawmakers and governors have stolen a billion dollars from the STF.  So not only are we about $4.5 billion short on needed funds for rail repairs, but the STF has been treated like a petty cash box and drained it at will.

How sad it is when we have to balance our state’s budget by taking money targeted for keeping our rails and highways safe, not to mention starting a state-wide Keno game, basically a “tax” on those ignorant enough to play it (with odds of about 9 million to one of winning the jackpot).

Kudos to Senator Blumenthal for pushing safety as a top priority.  Maybe he can also get Amtrak to start paying its fair share for running trains over our (state-owned and maintained) tracks.

But it’s not just our rails that are in bad shape. This week the group Transportation for America released its annual report on the deterioration of U.S. highway bridges: one in nine of those bridges is structurally deficient and in need of repair or replacement.  In Connecticut, that number has grown, not declined, since last year.

Yet, our DOT is still moving forward with a half-billion dollar rebuild of the structurally sound Waterbury “mix-master” where Route 8 crosses I-84.  Why?

So, next time you’re filling your tank with the priciest gasoline in the Northeast, pick-up a Keno ticket. You might have a better chance of winning there than ever seeing your taxes spent on improving transportation safety.
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James Cameron (Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron has been a Darien resident for 22 years. He is chairman of the Metro-North Commuter Council, a member of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area, and the Darien Representative Town Meeting.The opinions expressed here are his own. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or www.trainweb.org/ct. For the full collection of Talking Transportation columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Posted 06/25/13 at 07:03 PM  Permalink



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This is just one of the issues our governor has created.  He raised taxes on almost all residents in CT, and then spends hundred of millions giving away Tax benefits to friends.  And he keeps the horrible pension scheme for his union buddies.  And now our roads etc are deteriorating as he robs the transportation fund to try and stave off his huge budget woes.  And the states liabilities to continue to grow—off balance sheet—now $60 Billion.

So—tell me—why would anyone vote for Malloy ever again>

Posted by Bart Shuldman on June 25, 2013 at 08:46 PM | #