The two spans of the Gold Star Bridge over the Thames River, looking toward New London from Groton. Victor-ny / Creative Commons
Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association Keith M. Phaneuf / file photo

A coalition of Connecticut construction businesses and trades launched a new advertising campaign Wednesday to press for a major state investment in transportation.

And though the text of the new ads from Move CT Forward — which are airing on television, radio and online — don’t specifically endorse establishing tolls and raising gasoline taxes — one of the key sponsors of this coalition is backing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposals to do both.

“The failure to act has resulted in Connecticut’s roads and bridges crumbling before our eyes,” said Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association. “We cannot allow this to continue. The economic well-being of Connecticut, as well as the safety of Connecticut’s 3.5 million residents is at stake. This effort will not stop until Hartford has acted to fix these issues.”

Shubert has endorsed Malloy’s call for new revenues to support the state budget’s Special Transportation Fund.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned Wall Street investors, the business community and the legislature in November that Connecticut’s transportation program is on the brink of a crisis.

Absent more funding, the state would need to scrap some rail services, drive up fares, suspend 40 percent of planned capital projects — worth about $4.3 billion in construction activity — including major highway projects such as rebuilding the Hartford viaduct, to remain solvent over the next five years, the administration says.

The governor asked legislators in February to add seven cents to Connecticut’s 25-cents-per-gallon retail gasoline tax, and to order electronic tolling on highways. The latter, if approved, probably would not yield major revenue until the 2021-22 fiscal year, the administration says.

The legislature’s Transportation Committee approved a bill last week that could lead to tolls.

It would require the Department of Transportation to study how to establish tolling on Interstates 84, 91 and 95, and on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways. It also would allow the legislature 30 days to act upon the report after receiving it during the 2019 General Assembly session. But if the House and Senate did not reject the DOT’s plan, the restoration of tolling would be deemed approved.

But advocates of that measure conceded opposition to tolls remains strong in the full House and Senate and that some legislators on the fence could be reluctant to back tolls in a state election year.

Other members of the Move CT Forward Coalition include International Union of Operating Engineers Local 478 and the New England Region of Laborers International Union of America.

“Every day, we are forced to drive on roads that are crumbling and over bridges that are old, outdated, and haven’t received necessary repairs in decades, if ever,” said Craig Metz, Business Manager of I.U.O.E. Local 478. “What we need from Hartford is action, and action right now. Every second a solution is put off is just one more second closer to a possible tragedy. The time has long since passed to resolve this issue.”

“There are few greater investments we can make than properly funding our roads and bridges,” said Keith Brothers, business manager of the CT Laborers’ District Council. “This is a matter of public safety and of creating opportunities to build up our state and local economy. If we fail to act and act now, the consequences will be disastrous for our state.”

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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