Source: Kevin Maloney, New Haven Independent
With so many opportunities for infrastructure investments, Connecticut’s Councils of Governments will play a leading role in guiding towns and cities through the process.
The Municipal Voice, a co-production of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and WNHH 103.5, was recently joined by Matt Hart, longtime town manager for West Hartford and current Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) Executive Director, to discuss the road leading to our state’s future.
“An important goal for me and for CRCOG will be leveraging those federal infrastructure dollars,” Hart said, “This is a once in a generation, maybe a once in a career opportunity to do that.”
CRCOG’s members account for a diverse array of towns and cities, 38 in total. Because of the newly acquired “county-level equivalency,” it is the closest thing we have to county-level government in the state.
The COGs are charged with helping their member towns study problems, apply for funds, and guide them through projects as a regional planning agency.
They start with conducting studies and hiring experts to look at issues brought to them by their member municipalities. Currently they are looking into the impacts of distracted and reckless driving. Their experts look at the data and statistics around certain intersections and perform analysis to recommend a set of improvements.
“Those studies can then form the basis of a project to implement those improvements.”
Beyond that is the submission process. They contact the appropriate state or federal agency, he notes the Federal Highway Administration, and help usher the project through the review process.
In recreational transportation, the COG is looking to close the remaining gaps on the East Coast Greenway where folks can bike or walk the trails. But over time, there’s a chance that more and more individuals could use that for “micro-mobility purposes.”
“Whether it’s bike, scooter, etc., how can they best utilize those forms of transportation for aspects of everyday life,” Hart said, “Whether its going to the grocery store or school.”
Some infrastructure doesn’t involve any mobility at all. CRCOG is meeting with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection along with some of their members to discuss opportunities for broadband infrastructure.
“I think for the COGs, it’s going to be important for us to know where are the gaps, in terms of middle mile, last mile,” he noted, saying that they will be seeking funding for those projects where applicable.
And at least one project in the future is going to involve trying to avoid transportation altogether. With the Materials Innovation Resource Authority closing down, many towns and cities, those primarily in the CRCOG purview, are going to be shipping their waste to landfills out of state.
Not only is this expensive, according to Hart, but it is only short term. He says that the CRCOG is going to have to help towns and cities by moving into that space to come up with a game plan.
At a time when towns and cities are losing experienced staff due to retirements, CRCOG is moving into spaces to find those areas of commonality, project money, and more. To many, it does sound a bit like county government.
But Hart doesn’t think that the COGs are just going to recreate counties. “Here at CRCOG, were going to continue to meet the evolving needs of our members,” Hart said.
Click here to watch the entire episode of The Municipal Voice.