At the start of the 2015 legislative session, transportation was a prominent topic with Governor Malloy calling for a 30-year, $100 billion investment to transform Connecticut’s infrastructure.
By the close of the session, however, the transportation story was more about detours than progress.
That was a disappointment as much could have been done to improve Connecticut's transportation system. According to several national studies, Connecticut has some of the most highly-congested corridors in the country.
The governor created and convened a Transportation Financing Panel to examine and develop a plan to provide a long-term funding source for his transportation infrastructure improvement plan.
However, before the panel concludes its work, and at the end of regular session, lawmakers approved dedicating a portion of the sales tax to be used to pay for a five-year ramp of the plan.
However, they failed to pass proposals that would have protected transportation funds: Joint Resolutions 62 and 63, as well as HB 6857 and SB 937 were all designed to prevent the state’s Special Transportation Fund from being raided for non-transportation purposes. There is some talk of reviving these bills in the coming special session.
On a positive note, lawmakers passed HB 6823, which continues to transfer more authority over the state's airports from the Department of Transportation to the Connecticut Airport Authority. The authority is working to ensure that the state achieves the full economic potential of its airports.
Lost in the legislative shuffle was a potentially very helpful proposal addressing Connecticut’s highly congested highways.
SB 481 would have required the commissioner of transportation to develop and annually improve an enhanced traffic accident clearance plan. Traffic congestion is the number-one business-related transportation concern, and this proposal had the potential to provide immediate relief while working toward longer-term strategies. While this proposal failed, the idea may still be folded into a transportation-related bill in the coming special session.
Lawmakers spent much time in debate this session over peripheral issues that would not improve Connecticut’s transportation system or infrastructure.
For example, legislators were in lengthy debates over whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to receive "drive only" motor vehicle operator's licenses (HB 6366); whether Uber ride-sharing providers should be allowed to operate without additional regulations (HB 6683); and whether Tesla should be allowed to have direct-from-manufacturer vehicle sales in the state (HB 6682).