Governor Files Bond Package That includes Tens Of Millions For Local Projects
Hartford Courant, February 7, 2020
By Christopher Keating
After more than eight months of delays, Gov. Ned Lamont released a 74-page bond package Thursday with a wide variety of construction projects and upgrades ranging from courthouses to the XL Center in Hartford.
The items are significant, but lawmakers said what’s more important is getting projects, which would be paid for by state borrowing, onto the agenda of the 10-member State Bond Commission. That has been difficult for the past year as Gov. Ned Lamont has imposed his “debt diet,” holding only four commission meetings and creating much smaller agendas than previous governors.
For months, Lamont has tied the annual bond package to a vote on tolls, saying that one would not happen without the other. Lamont’s latest toll proposal calls for truck-only tolls on 12 bridges on six highways from Groton to Greenwich. While no final dates have been announced, lawmakers say that the vote on tolls could be held on Feb. 18 or 19.
The bond package includes $200 million over two years for the state transportation department for "construction, repair or maintenance of highways, roads, bridge or bus and rail facilities and equipment.” It also includes $55 million over two years for “alterations, renovations and improvements” at the XL Center in downtown Hartford.
Lamont announced last week that he had reached an agreement on the package of $1.7 billion, up from an original proposal of $1.4 billion, but the details were not disclosed until the bill was released Thursday.
The legislature’s vote on the package, which is normally passed at the same time as the state budget in June, has been repeatedly delayed over the past eight months as lawmakers squabbled about tolls.
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven charged again Thursday that Lamont had increased the bond package and included additional projects in order to obtain votes in favor of trucks-only tolls.
“It does bear out the fact that he’s giving out $300 million more than his debt diet,” Fasano said. “All of a sudden, there’s $300 million that we couldn’t afford that we’re now affording."
When Fasano made similar comments recently, Lamont’s chief spokesman said that he was “fear-mongering."
“COST is relieved that the proposed bond package includes much-needed funding for Town Aid Road, the Local Capital Improvement Program, and other critical sources of municipal aid,” said Betsy Gara, the group’s executive director. "We are hopeful that the legislature will act swiftly to adopt the bond package to ensure that towns can move forward with vital road and infrastructure projects to enhance their communities. Towns have been waiting for this funding since July, which has made it extremely difficult to plan for projects that are important to the future of their communities.''
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents all 169 cities and towns in the state, said it was “grateful” that the bond package has been released.
“Long-overdue, these state funds for local transportation and infrastructure investments are critical to a municipality’s efforts to plan and implement their projects effectively, which is important for public safety and economic growth,” said Kevin Maloney, CCM’s spokesman.
But CCM says the bill should no longer be attached to the long-stalled tolls proposal because towns have been delaying projects or pulling money from other areas to pay for the local improvements.
“We would argue that towns and cities can no longer wait for the legislature to pass the truck tolling bill,” Maloney said. “Time is of the essence, and we would ask that the legislature take up the bond package immediately so that municipalities can move forward with their infrastructure projects.”
In the package back to top
Among the items in the package are:
Up to $5 million for the Small Business Express program to help spur job growth.
Up to $40 million over two years for the state Department of Labor for workforce training.
Up to $22 million over two years for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities for research laboratories, telecommunications improvements and advanced manufacturing programs.
Almost $40 million over two years for the Judicial Department for upgrades at courthouses and other buildings.
Up to $90 million over two years for dredging and improving the state’s deep-water ports.
The bill mentions a series of high-profile transportation projects that would provide major improvements on state roads including:
I-84 widening between exits 3 and 8.
I-84 safety and operational improvements in Hartford.
Operational lanes for I-84 interchanges 40 to 42 in West Hartford.
I-84 and Route 8 interchange improvements in Waterbury.
I-91, I-691 and Route 15 interchange improvements.
I-95 improvements to reduce congestion between New Haven and the New York state line.
I-95 improvements to reduce congestion between New Haven and the Rhode Island state line.
Rehabilitation and repair for the I-95 Gold Star Bridge.
Reconfiguration for Route 7 and Route 15 interchange in Norwalk.
Route 9 improvements in Middletown.
Legislators cautioned that the inclusion of items in the package does not necessarily mean that the construction will take place. The projects move forward only after being approved by the State Bond Commission, which Lamont chairs.
Lamont’s bill is subject to approval by the full House of Representatives and Senate. The measure would become law with his signature.