Beyond tackling a major budget deficit, foreclosure rates that continue to wreak havoc on our communities and unemployment rates that will require a major economic policy shift, our next governor and General Assembly will have another huge obstacle to contend with: Connecticut's aging infrastructure.
According to a report released at the end of July by TRIP -- a national transportation research group based in Washington, D.C., -- nearly half of Connecticut's major roads are in need of repair and a third of our bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Our rural traffic fatality rate is double that on other roads and more than half of the state's roads are congested during peak travel times.
Specifically, the TRIP group found that 13 percent of the major roadways are in poor condition and an additional 32 percent are in mediocre condition. In addition to deteriorated road conditions, 9 percent of bridges are structurally deficient and 25 percent are functionally obsolete.
As roads and bridge conditions worsen and roads become increasingly congested, commuting and commerce are constrained, especially in urban areas. An efficient and reliable transportation system is essential to economic growth. Infrastructure doesn't exist in a bubble; our economic future is tied to our ability to meet our transit needs.
Beyond the economic factors, however, are issues of safety. According to the TRIP report, our roadways lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands and have poor pavement conditions that cost the state's drivers about $2.7 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays.
The easy answer to our transportation questions is to simply fix the problems. Unfortunately, infrastructure improvement isn't that easy. And it's expensive.
Connecticut lacks adequate funding to make needed improvements to our transportation system, the TRIP report says. Needed transportation projects would require significant investment from the federal government to proceed -- something we can't always count on.
While last year's American Recovery & Reinvestment Act provided $302 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $137 for public transit, much more will be needed to put us back on track.
I believe that this report serves as a call to action to put transportation planning on the long-term agenda. We can't fix our problems overnight, but our overall economic vitality is in the cross hairs of doing nothing or having vision for the future. The time has come to tackle our transportation shortcomings and improve the day-to-day lives of all Connecticut motorists.
To learn more about TRIP, or to read the TRIP report, please visit www.tripnet.org.