Connecticut Borrowing for Road Expansion Like There’s No Tomorrow

Connecticut has elected to spend up to $500 million adding two lanes to I-84 over a three-mile stretch in Waterbury. Image: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Looks like Connecticut still has’t extricated itself from the “growth ponzi scheme” — you know, gambling on a few road widenings while the bulk of its existing assets slide into disrepair.

According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Connecticut recently approved a $537 million spending package for transportation. And while the spending plan includes some good items for transit, the state has decided to spend a very large share of it widening a single road.

Among the projects approved is a plan to widen three miles of I-84 at a total cost of up to $500 million, or $167 million a mile. State leaders expect federal matching funds to cover 80 percent of that. But even federal matching dollars aren’t unlimited.

“To put this in perspective, Connecticut receives just $486 million a year in federal funds for all road and bridge projects,” said Tri-State’s Steven Higashide.

Higashide notes that a USA Today report recently highlighted the sorry state of Connecticut’s existing roads. The state had the second-highest percentage of roads rated in “poor” condition. Meanwhile, 35 percent of Connecticut’s bridges are considered structurally deficient.

“Committing to another pricey road widening means less funding available for maintenance, and slower going ahead,” Tri-State’s Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said. “Furthermore, decades of experience in Connecticut and across the country have shown that highway expansion leads to sprawl development, which increases traffic and quickly re-congests the road.”