BY MATTHEW Q. CLARIDA
Gridlock in Congress may pause repairs of Connecticut’s roads and bridges.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and federal Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx met for nearly an hour on Thursday to discuss the dwindling federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund provides about 50 percent of the state’s transportation infrastructure costs and is set to run out in early August, Malloy said.
After the meeting, Malloy said that as many as 85 projects in the state could stall if Congress does not vote to appropriate more money to the fund. Almost as critical, he said that if the fund is not replenished by October, the state will not be able to bid for new projects, setting repairs back for an entire building season.
The prospects for the fund’s replenishment reflect the ongoing gridlock in Washington, D.C. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who attended the meeting with Foxx and Malloy, said that he has been speaking with Senate colleagues about the fund and is confident the upper chamber will at least approve a stopgap fix before August.
But Connecticut’s representatives in the House expressed frustration rather than optimism, explaining that some Republicans are trying to tie transportation funding to disparate issues like mail delivery and may be worried about honoring promises to not increase spending. With some exasperation, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, shook her head when asked about progress in the House. “I have nothing going on in the house. Nothing,” she said. DeLauro and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the matter was in the hands of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
If the money runs out, the government will continue counting receipts and will eventually reimburse the states, Foxx said. In the meantime, Malloy will simply have to prioritize some projects over others. He said Thursday that New Haven’s Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, which carries I-95 and has been under some form of construction for the better part of a decade, would be a top priority for continued state support if federal dollars were to dry up.
Also at Thursday’s meeting was Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. Sen. Chris Murphy, who has proposed hiking the gasoline tax by 12 cents, was in the Capitol for a morning press conference but was not at the meeting. Reps. Jim Himes, D-4th District, and John Larson, D-1st District, also skipped.
Photo by Matthew Q. Clarida