Construction workers, engineers, and materials workers crowded the Legislative Office Building Friday as they pushed for a constitutional amendment to protect funds for transportation projects.
The issue has been a cornerstone of Gov. Dannel Malloy's second term as he's pressed for a 30 year, $100 billion overhaul of the state's infrastructure.
Malloy renewed that push Friday as an economic development issue that he says has been used against the state in the past.
“We are not winning our fair share of jobs coming out of New York and coming out of other places, in large part because I talk to these folks, in large part because they don’t think we have the will to address our transportation woes.”
During a December Special Session of the General Assembly, lawmakers came close to securing the question for voters on the November 2016 statewide ballot, but fell several votes short. Malloy and the transportation building sector want to see urgency in the state capitol.
Lawmakers approved diverting a half percent of sales tax revenues to transportation projects, but a lockbox was not included.
One of the most pressing projects from a safety standpoint is replacing Interstate 84 through Hartford. The winding road is notorious for its at times dangerous traffic pattern with exits weaving through the middle of the capital city.
The newest proposal from project engineers is to lower the viaduct altogether, creating a road below the ground level, with rebuilt exits, creating a land space above.
“Below grade to relink parts of Hartford, that’s an option that’s still on the table" said Lyle Wray, with the Capital Region Council of Governments, who also supports the lockbox for transportation revenues.
“It also gives fifteen acres of developable land right in the heart of the city so not only getting in and out town easier but there would be more land for building a stronger community that’s better linked to the north and south sides of the city so it’s a huge opportunity for the city.”
One of the best reasons, Wray argues, to build with such a plan is to reconnect parts of the state that are split as a result of the traffic pattern.
“This has been a sort of gash right across the heart of the city and this can get fixed in the reconstruction and this would be a critical objective.”
The project could cost as much as $6 billion. Since it wouldn't be a tunnel, it would have a much cheaper construction cost. A complete underground tunnel could cost as much as $12 billion according to engineers.