For immediate release: October 29, 2007
Contact: Ryan Lynch, Kate Slevin
Phone: 212-268-7474

 

Groups Urge ConnDOT Reform Commission to Support Smart Growth, Invest in Existing Infrastructure

 

A coalition of transportation, environmental, business and civic groups held a press conference in Hartford Monday, urging the Governor’s Commission on the Reform of the Department of Transportation to emphasize and reinforce smart growth principles, an existing priority within Governor Rell’s administration, in their recommendations. The Reform Commission, set up by the Governor in April of this year to review the structure and operation of the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT), is expected to release its recommendations in December.

“Governor Rell wants to be a leader on smart growth and transit-oriented development. The ConnDOT Reform Commission’s recommendations should reflect that,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working toward a more transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. “Connecticuters deserve to have an accountable and effective DOT working to promote sustainable solutions to the transportation and development issues of the 21 st Century.”

TSTC, joined by Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby, 1000 Friends of Connecticut, the Business Council of Fairfield County, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Connecticut Sierra Club, and the National Corridors Initiative, urged the Reform Commission to adopt four principles in their recommendations, including broadening the mission of the DOT by incorporating smart growth concepts into the design, development and implementation of transportation projects. This includes expanding support, in the form of state transportation dollars, to municipalities that are open to these ideas.

Senator John McKinney (R-28) and Representative David McCluskey (D-West Hartford) were also present to support the groups’ message.

Their call to action is based upon successful reform achieved within the New Jersey Department of Transportation. In recent years, NJDOT has altered the way it does business, moving away from a predominantly road-expanding agency to an agency working to find sustainable solutions that reduce the future growth in car trips. NJDOT works collaboratively with municipalities, providing funding and technical expertise to help design healthier communities that focus development around existing Main Streets, villages, town centers and transit options. The groups are excited for the possibility to see the same outcomes in Connecticut.

"As states across the country struggle with reforming their patterns of development, we are pleased to work with ConnDOT and Governor Rell in helping Connecticut to ‘grow greener’,” said Molly McKay, Transportation Chair of Connecticut Sierra Club.

A report released in May by TSTC, Reform: The Road Not Taken, found that 61% of Connecticut’s highway and bridge dollars are slated for expansion and widening projects. The report, which analyzed ConnDOT’s Transportation Improvement Program for 2007-2010.recommended that Connecticut spend its transportation dollars on fixing existing roadways and bridges.

According to Ryan Lynch, Senior Planner at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, “A disproportionate amount of ConnDOT’s resources go to expanding and widening roads. This is not a sustainable solution and will actually cause more congestion for Connecticut’s roads in the long term. We want to see more of ConnDOT’s resources invested in maintaining the existing infrastructure of municipalities throughout Connecticut. Our policy is: Fix-It-First!”

“We can’t build our way out of congestion,” said Slevin, “so we need to find solutions that address the poor development decisions that are the root cause of traffic growth.”

The press conference called for the ConnDOT Reform Commissiont to include the groups’ four point agenda below in its recommendations to Governor Rell:

  • Broaden the mission of ConnDOT staff by incorporating smart growth concepts into design, development, and implementation of transportation projects, while additionally targeting state dollars towards municipalities that are open to such ideas.
  • Invest in existing road and bridge infrastructure, and adopt a strategy that focuses on reducing vehicles miles traveled. Move away from large and expensive highway expansion projects that fail to solve long-term congestion problems.
  • Consider innovative methods of raising transportation dollars, such as roadway pricing and high occupancy toll lanes.
  • Speed implementation of priority transit projects.

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The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment is a non-profit organization working to improve air and water quality, minimize the negative impacts of highways , and preserve open space, wetlands and public water supplies.