NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (AP) While Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended his record on transportation Sept. 15, saying more money has been spent to improve Connecticut’s roads and mass transit than prior administrations, Republican Tom Foley claimed the state’s traffic woes are still “shameful” and have created “a tremendous social cost.”
The two major party candidates appeared separately at a transportation forum in North Haven hosted by several regional transportation groups. Traffic jams, a hot-button issue for voters, has been a key issue in the tight race. Recently, a third party group supporting Foley pounced on the issue, running a TV ad showing a highway in gridlock.
“When you think about the human resources wasted while people sit in their cars, it’s shameful,” Foley told the room that included organizations representing road builders to environmentalists. “There”s a tremendous social cost to traffic congestion. We simply have to be more thoughtful about how we address it.”
But Malloy balked at Foley’s claim that the Democrat’s administration has not focused thoughtfully on transportation or, for that matter, dedicated the necessary resources to expand capacity on the highways. Foley contends Malloy has fixated more on public transportation, trying to “push people out of cars” when public transportation doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.
“The reason we need to spend more money on transit is because traffic is bad. Traffic is bad because we under-invested in this system for the better part of 20 years before I became governor. And it’s bad because we’re building out projects,” said Malloy, who rattled off a list of state highways currently under construction. He said his administration “is far outspending” prior administrations on transportation funding, after adjusting for inflation.
While he acknowledged that “traffic isn’t as good as it could be,” Malloy said one reason could be the job growth that has occurred in the state during his tenure.
Sept. 15’s forum highlighted the stark difference in style between the two candidates.
While Foley often spoken in general terms about issues, Malloy was full of specifics when asked about how to reduce gridlock and took issue when it appeared he might not get to speak about the issue as much as Foley, referring to him as “the other guy.”
“He didn’t necessarily say a lot, but he spoke longer,” Malloy quipped.
Malloy said he would like the state’s commuter rail line to become more like a subway system, with additional stops, stations and trains running every half hour. He spoke of possibly widening I-95 north of Madison, finishing Route 11 in southeastern Connecticut and revamping the interchange between I-395 and I-95. Foley, on the other hand, said he’s open to all ideas, such as widening parts of I-95 and possibly “double-decking” sections of the highway. But he said an entity such as the now-defunct Transportation Strategy Board should be resurrected to help determine the state’s transportation priorities.
“I’m not a traffic expert,” Foley said. “But I am an expert on what it feels like to be a struck in traffic.”
Both men offered nuanced positions on whether to reintroduce tolls in Connecticut.
Foley said he doesn’t support reinstating tolls to create more state revenue. But he said he might consider using tolls as a traffic management tool, charging people more to drive at peak times. He said the revenues would have to directly offset taxes currently collected to cover transportation costs.
Malloy said his administration is currently conducting studies on tolls and congestion pricing techniques. But the governor said tolling would only be necessary, most likely, if there was “Armageddon” and the federal government substantially cut transportation aid to the state. In such a case, Malloy said the revenues from tolls should be dedicated solely to major projects.