Infrastructure investments must be a top priority to drive business and economic growth, according to a new Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers report on the state's roads, bridges, and water systems.
The engineers gave the state's infrastructure an overall C-minus grade and advised Connecticut to invest in these areas to promote business, lower transportation costs, and prepare for increasingly severe storms.
"Infrastructure is the glue that holds our modern-day cities and towns together," the CSCE report says.
"Businesses rely on the transportation systems to move goods and people, power and water for industry, and communications to reach customers and conduct business transactions.
"The better these infrastructure systems are, the greater the opportunities for prosperity."
The report cited a poll in which 42% of state businesses and industry associations say road traffic and congestion hamper the growth of their markets, and that it's caused roughly 15% of businesses to consider relocating.
"We need robust and sustainable investment in our infrastructure to incentivize businesses to relocate or stay in Connecticut, which in turn will strengthen our economy, lessen the impact of challenging budget cycles, and improve our overall quality of life," the report said.
It is just one of several reports in recent years spotlighting the deteriorating condition of Connecticut’s roads and bridges.
Rail Grades Best
The engineers studied five specific areas: roads, bridges, rail, drinking water, and wastewater.
It gave rails the highest grade at B-plus, citing the recent $780 million investment in the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line.
But it noted "there is still a continuing need to invest in rail system modernization and replacement across both the freight and passenger network."
CSCE gave Connecticut's roads and bridges each a C-minus grade, indicating that while they are in fair to good condition, "some elements exhibit significant deficiencies in conditions and functionality, with increasing vulnerability to risk."
More than half of Connecticut’s 20,000 miles of roads are 55 years or older, the engineers said.
Roughly $30 billion will be needed to provide roads that would meet drivers' expectations within 30 years, the report said.
The biggest problem with Connecticut roads, as anyone who drives Interstate 95 or I-84 knows, is congestion.
Connecticut has the third-busiest road network in the country, and congestion costs commuters $2.4 billion annually in extra fuel costs.
In Connecticut's urban centers, drivers lose an average of 42.7 hours a year—an entire work week—due to delays.
The state must earmark more funds for transportation, the engineers said, “especially considering the recent budget crisis and the anticipated future budgetary shortfalls.”
Congestion costs Connecticut commuters $2.4 billion annually in extra fuel costs.
In addition, 59% of the state’s bridges are 50 years or older and beyond their design life, the report said.
The engineers called on the state to maintain its current transportation funding, and increase the gas tax to provide more money for infrastructure repairs.
The report also gave C-minus grades to the state's water and wastewater systems.
There are about 2,500 public water systems in Connecticut that provide drinking water to over 2.7 million people, or about 78% of the population.
The report said that while Connecticut has high-quality drinking water and generally well-maintained systems, "these systems are aging and in need of major repair and rehabilitation, estimated at over $4 billion through 2034."
The report said that most of Connecticut is served by sanitary sewer systems but that it has a wide variety of wastewater infrastructure.
"This infrastructure is aging and needs major repairs and rehabilitation. These improvements will require a $4.6 billion investment eliminate sanitary sewer overflows," the engineers said.
They also expressed concern with the impact of increasingly severe storms on the state’s wastewater infrastructure.
"Due to the tangible effects of climate change, wastewater facilities will need to be more resilient and take steps to address the impacts of increased flooding to maintain operation during extreme events," the report said.