ConnDOT: Chapter 9 DOT History

Chapter 9 DOT History



At 1:30 a.m. on June 28, 1983, a 100-foot section of the Mianus River Bridge on the Connecticut Turnpike collapsed. Three people were killed and three more injured. The bridge, which normally carried about 90,000 vehicles per day, was closed immediately and traffic re-routed to Route 1 through the Greenwich business district. Guided by Commissioner J. William Burns, in an engineering and construction feat deserving of recognition, the Department reopened the bridge on September, 1983, only three months after it was closed. Within 25 days after the collapse, a substitute bridge section was in place to allow temporary passage of traffic until the new bridge could be opened.

While the collapse of the bridge created a crisis within the Department, national media coverage helped raise public consciousness about the generally poor condition of roads and bridges nationwide. Federal aid highway bills starting in 1944 had provided money and incentive for building new roads, but no federal funds were allocated for maintenance and repair until 1976. As a result of this deferred maintenance, roads and bridges across the country had been left to deteriorate.


Connecticut acted promptly to ameliorate its own infrastructure deterioration problem. In October, 1983, the General Assembly voted funds for emergency repairs to highways and bridges throughout the state. These funds were in addition to money already allocated to replace bridges in the southeastern part of the state washed out or damaged by floods in June of 1982.

Governor William O'Neill and the General Assembly formulated and passed a 10 year, $5.5 billion Transportation Infrastructure Renewal Program in February, 1984 (P.A. 84-254 and S.A. 84-52). The program is funded by the proceeds of sales of State Transportation Obligation (STO) bonds. The STOs finance the following types of projects: resurfacing and reconstruction of roadways; state and local bridge improvement, rehabilitation, and replacement; continued construction of the interstate system and of intrastate highways; the purchase and construction of bus and rail facilities and equipment; and the development and improvement of general aviation airport facilities, including grants-in-aid to municipal airports.

Effective July 1, 1984, the Special Transportation Fund was established. The fund=s resources are dedicated to maintaining and improving the state's transportation system. The Special Transportation Fund receives revenues from a number of different sources: motor fuels taxes; motor vehicle receipts and transportation related licenses, permits and fees; Federal Transit Authority (FTA) operating assistance grants; interest income; and general fund transfers. These resources are used to finance transportation debt service of the STO bonds, Department operating expenses, operating subsidies for bus and rail services, and the costs of the pay-as-you-go program. Debt service results from the issuance of 20-year bonds to provide resources for major capital improvements to the transportation system. Under the covenants governing the STO bonds, debt service requirements must be satisfied first.

Integral to the legislation were several bridge programs: the Local Bridge Program to improve bridges on highways other than the interstate; the Town Bridge Program, which provided funds for 364 structurally deficient bridges owned by municipalities; and the Orphan Bridge Program which addressed the needs of town bridges passing over defunct railroads and no longer maintained by either.

On July 9, 1984, as part of its reorganization and in response to the new emphasis on bridges, the Department established the Office of Bridges and Structures. The new office was responsible for the administration and direction of two specialized divisions charged with the safety inspection, evaluation, and design of bridges and structures on the state's highways.


Although the Department focused on reconstruction and rehabilitation in the decade following the Mianus River Bridge collapse, new road construction did not stop. Construction of certain portions of the interstate system, as well as the extension of Route 9 (the Central Connecticut Expressway), continued, despite a $13 million decrease in federal aid funds due to passage of the deficit-reducing Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in December of 1985.

Other recent construction projects have included two new bridges and modification of the I-84/I-91 interchange. The new Charter Oak Bridge, which carries Route 15 across the Connecticut River from Hartford to East Hartford, was opened to traffic on August 8, 1991. The $93 million bridge has three lanes in each direction, an eight-foot wide sidewalk along the structure's upstream side, as well as bicycle and handicap access from both sides of the river. The new Baldwin Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Connecticut River between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, was opened to traffic on May 25, 1993, eight months ahead of schedule and $325,000 under budget.

A major improvement in Connecticut's expressway system was made on October 11, 1990, when the new "flyover" connector from eastbound I-84 to northbound I-91 in Hartford was opened to traffic. Constructed as part of an $88.5 million modernization of the I-84/I-91 interchange, the flyover allows traffic to move directly between the two expressways rather than having to pass through a city street connection which had previously been the case.


The efficient and safe movement of traffic in urban and developed areas has continued to challenge the Department. Many methods of relieving congestion, aside from building more roads, have been implemented to improve travel efficiency. Tollbooths along the Connecticut Turnpike often created bottlenecks during rush hour. In November, 1983, the Department began selling tokens to commuters in an effort to expedite movement through the toll plazas.

The token system did not remain in use for long. In January, 1983, a tractor trailer truck collided with three cars at the I-95 toll plaza in Stratford, killing seven people and injuring many others. The accident prompted the Department and state legislators to reconsider the use of tolls strictly from a safety standpoint. The decision was made to remove the eight toll plazas on the Connecticut Turnpike and the one on the Bissell Bridge by December 31, 1985. Tolls on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways continued in operation until June 24, 1988. The removal of tollbooths did improve travel time and safety, but also reduced revenue for the Transportation Fund and impacted over 400 people who lost their jobs as of January 1, 1986.

April 28, 1989 marked the end of state highway tolls collected in Connecticut, with the closing of the Charter Oak Bridge toll station. Governor William O'Neill and Commissioner Burns officiated at the ceremonies as the last toll was paid by William Thornton, President of Manchester Sand and Gravel Company. Mr. Thornton, as a child of 13, paid the first toll on the Charter Oak Bridge when it opened on September 5, 1942.

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A number of initiatives were taken to improve traffic flows around Hartford. Routes I-91 between Hartford and Windsor and I-84 west of Hartford were widened to accommodate increased commuter traffic. The Dexter Coffin Bridge over the Connecticut River underwent rehabilitation. In addition, the Department built high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes known as Adiamond lanes@ to encourage car pooling and to reduce congestion on I-91 north and I-84 east of Hartford. The single-car, single-driver, personal convenience mentality of the nation's drivers, plus the relatively low price of gas, has meant that car pooling and other ridesharing and mass transit efforts of the Department have involved a continuing program of public education.

In 1990 the Department began developing an Incident Management Program to facilitate traffic flow and movement. The initial system in the Hartford area covering approximately 12 miles in the I-84/I-91 interchange area is comprised of radar detectors, CCTV cameras, computerized signal systems and a statewide system of variable message signs. The traffic data and video is transmitted to a 24 hour operations center in the Department headquarters in Newington. A 1-800 number has been established for use by the state and local police to report incidents and request Department assistance in emergency situations.

The most ambitious incident management project to date in Connecticut is a fiber optic based system along a 56 mile stretch of I-95 from the New York State Line to Branford, utilizing radar detectors, CCTV cameras strategically placed to give complete coverage, expanded computerized signal systems with pre-timed alternative routes, additional variable message signs utilizing LED (light emitting diode) technology, and a 24 hour operations center to be operated within the dispatch area of the new Bridgeport State Police Barracks. These and other Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) projects are the responsibility of the Division of Highway Operations, established in 1991 in recognition of the need to increase the efficiency of the existing highway system.


Concern for traveler safety led the division to develop and patent the Narrow-site Connecticut Impact- Attenuation System. In May of 1982, the Department started to research a new highway crash cushion, constructed of steel tubes, that would dissipate the energy of a crash and prevent a vehicle from rebounding back into traffic. Testing was conducted in 1983 at Cambridge University (England), Calspan Advanced Technology Center in Buffalo, New York, and at the Texas Transportation Institute. The attenuation devices were field tested in 1984, after which they were regularly put into use.

The Department had long been involved in research and testing of materials and techniques. In the late 1940s, the Department had also collaborated with the engineers of the then New Jersey State Highway Department on the development of the AJersey barrier@. First put into use in 1949 on Jugtown Mountain, New Jersey, it was not used in Connecticut until 1968, when it was used on I-91 in New Haven.

The Department's Division of Research and Materials research division conducts tests on different types of pavements and on corrosion protection for bridges, among other items, to improve public safety, protect state investments in infrastructure, and save money through wise choices in building materials.

Another division within the Department concerned with safety is the Division of Traffic Engineering. These engineers conduct surveys and make recommendations for improvements, design traffic control systems, and monitor lane markings, speed limits, parking along major thoroughfares, and the location of cross walks.


The Bureau of Aviation and Ports licenses and regulates 123 public and private aviation facilities in addition to the six state-owned airports. The Bureau licenses airports, heliports, and seaplane bases, manages the state-owned airports, acts as liaison with federal and local agencies, and provides technical and financial assistance to municipal and private airports.

During the 1980s and 1990s, infrastructure renewal and transportation planning have been integral to the operations at the six state airports. These airports have received increased attention and integration into statewide transportation planning. In 1986, the Department developed a Connecticut State Airport System Plan to coordinate operations among airports in the state and the region, and to meet the requirements of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Over the past 10 years, state-owned airports have upgraded their radar and navigation equipment, runway lighting, runways and taxiways, and passenger facilities using Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and state funds.

Bradley International Airport, which is financially self-supporting, periodically receives capital funds from the FAA to upgrade and maintain its equipment so the airport can serve as the alternate landing site for Boston's Logan and New York's JFK Airports. Additional federal funds help maintain the airport as the base for Army and Air Force National Guard installations. Today, Bradley has one of the most sophisticated instrument landing systems in the country.

Bradley International Airport provides passenger service to most major hubs in the U.S. and most cities in Florida, as well as service to Canada and the Caribbean. There are currently 21 air carriers, seven of them major airlines, operating at the airport with over 250 flights daily. With flights to Canada and the Caribbean, Bradley has customs officials on hand at all times. Immigration, agriculture and public health inspectors are on call to meet incoming planes as needed. Two fixed-base operators (FBOs), AMR-Combs and Signature Flight Services provide fuel, maintain general aviation operations and de-ice planes. Passenger service has remained relatively stable over the past several years, with an increase in charter and low fare carriers in 1995.

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Bradley is not just a passenger airport. All major cargo and express carriers serve Bradley, and UPS is scheduled to build a major regional sorting facility there in the near future. Cargo use of the airport has been and continues to be the area of greatest growth. In anticipation of increasing passenger and cargo traffic, the airport recently added two taxiways and rehabilitated the main runway. Long range plans include increased marketing of the airport as an alternative to Logan and JFK airports as well as renovation and expansion of the passenger terminals.

In 1983, the state legislature approved a $100 million improvement package for the airport, including a shuttle from remote parking, concessions, improved public parking and public road system, terminal renovation and addition of a second passenger terminal, and the construction of air cargo facilities. Private investments the following years, amounting to over $300 million, provided an additional air cargo building, a sales and maintenance facility, a regional post office, four rent-a-car service centers, and a 280-unit hotel.

The Air National Guard maintains a base at Bradley and recently constructed new facilities, as did the Army Aviation Support facility which also leases space at Bradley. Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters are kept in military and civil disaster readiness.

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Unlike Bradley, which is economically self-sufficient, the state's other five airports are supported through the transportation fund, where all of their fees are deposited. Like Bradley, they also receive capital improvement funds from the FAA.

Brainard Airport, located in southeast Hartford, is one of the busiest in the state. When Bradley started developing in the 1950s, commercial jets moved their operations from Brainard. By 1958 all commercial carriers had relocated to Bradley. The state and the city of Hartford entered into an agreement that year, giving control to the state and making half of the airport into an industrial park. Today, Brainard Airport has one turf and two paved runways and a federal control tower staffed 18 hours a day. Passenger traffic is primarily corporate. Facilities include two aviation terminals, maintenance facilities, air taxi service, and flight schools. Brainard serves as the reliever airport for Bradley.

Danielson Airport, in the eastern part of state, was originally developed as a small air strip to accommodate aircraft arriving for service at the Harvard A. Ellis Regional Vocational Technical School. Funding for the school and the airport came from the state legislature. The single paved runway was completed in 1962. The Civil Air Patrol is located at the airport. During the Infrastructure Renewal Program of 1984, Danielson received new security fences, a rotating beacon, and new surfaces on roadways and parking areas. A fixed base operator at the airport provides repairs, flight instruction, fuel and charter service.

Groton-New London Airport was established as the first state airport in 1929. Originally called Trumbull Airport after Governor Jonathan Trumbull, the airport was taken over by the Navy during World War II. The Navy built the runways before the state resumed ownership in 1948. Today the airport has two paved runways for both scheduled air carriers and general aviation. Under the Infrastructure Renewal Program, the airport received new runway approach lights and parking facilities. It currently provides a control tower and precision instrument approach equipment.

Waterbury-Oxford Airport, in the towns of Oxford and Middlebury, opened for public use December 15, 1969. Planes can use either of two runways and have the assistance of a precision instrument landing system. A fixed base operator at the airport provides aircraft and auto rentals in addition to repairs and fuel.

The Windham Airport, in the eastern part of the state, was originally constructed and maintained by the city of Willimantic. In July 1975, the state purchased the facility for one dollar. Two active runways and other services are operated by Windham Aviation Inc.


The Department's commitment to the maintenance of viable freight rail in the state was reaffirmed in 1983, when Commissioner J. William Burns signed a policy memorandum formally establishing the Rail Preservation and Improvement Program. The major components of the Program were the following: increased state capital assistance funding to the freight railroads; preservation through acquisition of active rail lines for continued rail use; and rail banking or land banking of inactive rail lines for future transportation use. (Rail banking involves the acquisition of the tracks, structures, etc., as well as the right-of-way, whereas land banking involves the acquisition of only the rail right-of-way.)

The tax exemption program provides additional financial assistance to freight rail operators. Railroads in the state are taxed on their gross receipts. If a railroad spends, on capital improvement projects approved by the Department, an amount equal to its tax liability, the railroad may obtain an exemption from the tax. The logic was that putting money into capital improvements would ensure ongoing maintenance of physical plant, which is as beneficial to the state as receiving tax revenue. The goal of rail banking and land banking is to preserve contiguous portions of rail right-of-ways for future transportation use. The Department acquires abandoned rail lines when they connect major urban centers, are part of a line that connects urban centers, or have potential for future freight use. In an effort to increase town support of railroads, the Department considers acquiring abandoned freight lines under the following conditions: the towns through which the line runs have zoned the adjacent lands for industry and are supportive of industrial development in the area; utilities are available and/or accessible to the adjacent lands; and environmental conditions are conducive for industrial development.

The Rail Preservation and Improvement Program is still an ongoing program of the Department, which the Department plans to pursue as aggressively as possible, given the financial constraints at both state and federal levels. Some of the most significant projects completed under the program have included the following: state acquisition of many segments of rail line; the rehabilitation of Conrail's bridge over the Housatonic River in Derby and Shelton; construction of the Providence & Worcester Railroad's Poquetannuck Cove Bridge in Ledyard; Central Vermont's installation of continuously welded rail; and the rehabilitation of the state-owned railbanked (inactive) line from New Milford to North Canaan to allow reactivated freight service by the Housatonic Railroad.


The amendment of the agreements between the Department and the MTA of New York in June of 1985 changed the cost sharing ratio of the New Haven Line's operating deficit and capital projects. The Department now provides 56 percent of the main line's operating deficit and 53 percent of the New Haven Line share of Grand Central Terminal's operating deficit. The Department also pays for 100 percent of the capital costs in the state and 100 percent of the operating deficit of the three Connecticut branch lines (New Canaan, Danbury, Waterbury). Also in 1985, the Department exercised its option to purchase the New Haven Line right-of-way in Connecticut, including the three branches.

The Department initiated a new commuter rail service, the Shore Line East service, in May of 1990, with Amtrak as the contract operator. Shore Line East provides commuter passenger service to New Haven from points east of the city. The service is strictly commuter, with trains operating from Old Saybrook to New Haven in the morning and return trips in the afternoon and evening, Monday through Friday. Shore Line East trains connect with the New Haven Line service for continuation rail trips to points west in Connecticut and to New York City.


In the 1970s and early 1980s, mass transportation was primarily an urban issue. In the later 1980s and into the 1990s, the Department and the transit districts became more concerned with public transportation that meets the needs of the population, whether urban, suburban or rural. Currently, five Department subsidized transit districts provide combinations of fixed route, commuter subscription and demand responsive services throughout the rural regions of Connecticut. In the urban areas, nine transit districts provide similar Department subsidized services on a larger scale. In addition to the state-owned Connecticut Transit (CT Transit) services in the Hartford, New Haven and Stamford areas, three private companies provide local fixed route service for the Department in five urban areas that are not covered under any transit district authority. In Hartford, marketing studies and changing demographics are helping the transit district and the Department reorganize and expand services to meet user needs. Suburban areas present a particular problem, since not all riders need or want to go from the suburbs to the city. The Department is currently studying ways to move people efficiently within suburban areas.

Public transportation will be an area of continued activity for the Department in the coming 20 years. The Connecticut Statewide Transit System Plan completed in March 1991 acknowledged a number of factors that will be important considerations in public transportation planning: the increase in automobile use in the 1980s, associated with families having two or more workers; changing demographics, including more elderly citizens; increasing suburbanization which makes public transportation along established lines less effective; decrease in public funding; and the realization that highways alone cannot solve the growing transportation needs of the state. Although these factors pose difficulties, Connecticut is in an enviable position compared to other states when it comes to statewide planning. Unlike surrounding states, which have separate transit authorities managing public transportation, public transportation in Connecticut has been under the purview of a single bureau within the Department since 1969. Integrated planning is therefore easier and funding more flexible.

Since 1983, the Connecticut Public Transportation Commission (CPTC) has advised the governor, the state legislature and the Department on surface transportation projects. The CPTC also assists the Department in public involvement in consideration of projects. The CPTC evolved out of the Connecticut Transportation Authority (CTA), which previously had the authority to operate, maintain and improve rail passenger and bus services. In 1969, when the CTA was absorbed into the new Department and the Department assumed its operations, the CTA was disbanded and transformed into an advisory agency to the Department. In 1983, this advisory role was expanded beyond the Department to the governor and legislature.

In 1994, the Department began the update of its State Rail Plan and initiated an intermodal management study to identify opportunities for more efficient use of the state=s facilities and resources. Rail and bus lines will undoubtedly continue as major transportation programs within the Department as the Department seeks alternatives to crowded highways.


The Department has committed itself to the spirit and letter of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a landmark civil rights law. Under the ADA, individuals with disabilities are afforded equal access to public mass transportation. The ADA has had an impact on both the bus and the rail services provided by the Department.

The ADA states that as new fixed route buses are purchased, they must be accessible to persons with disabilities. This means that they must have wheelchair lifts, kneeling entrances, as well as many other accessibility features to allow easy access to individuals with disabilities. Connecticut is ahead of the rest of the country in this effort. The state passed its own legislation stating that all fixed route buses in Connecticut must be lift equipped by September of 1996. Approximately 85 percent of the buses are already lift equipped, and it is anticipated that all buses will be equipped by the deadline. This will allow everyone to access Connecticut's various bus systems.

The Department subsidizes fixed route bus transportation throughout the State of Connecticut. Under the ADA, wherever fixed route buses are run, comparable, door-to-door service, called paratransit, must be provided for people who have a disability that prevents them from using the fixed route. Paratransit services have been implemented in every bus service area in the State. For the four year period of 1993 through 1997, the Department has budgeted a total $19.5 million to provide this equivalent service to people with disabilities.

Along with these services, the Department is offering ATravel Training@ to persons with various types of disabilities. This program, which is beging run by the Kennedy Center of Bridgeport, a national leader in this field, is designed to train people with disabilities to access fixed route transportation. Upon completion of the training, people can begin to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that fixed route bus services offer.

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Under the ADA, a number of key commuter rail stations must be fully accessible to the disabled. As required by U.S. DOT rules, the Department is in the process of making compliance modifications to the twelve New Haven Line stations designated as key stations in the Department's Key Station Plan of July 1992. This plan was developed in conjunction with the ADA Task Force, a citizen=s advisory group consisting of individuals with disabilities and representatives of organizations serving the disabled. The Department sought and received extensions for meeting the key station accessibility compliance deadline of July 26, 1993, for all 12 New Haven Line key stations; Amtrak is responsible for compliance of the one Shore Line East key station. Currently, construction of accessibility facilities has been completed at the eastbound Norwalk station of the New Haven Line, with the westbound station expected to be complete in November of 1995. Construction at two other stations (Waterbury and New Haven) is nearing completion. Construction is scheduled and/or underway at seven other stations (Danbury, Bridgeport, Stamford, New Canaan, Westport, Fairfield, and Greenwich), while construction has not yet been scheduled at the remaining two key stations (Darien and Milford).

The ADA regulations also require that at least one car per train be accessible to persons with disabilities by July 26, 1995. Sixteen (16) of the 48 new New Haven Line M-6 electric cars (configured as triplets) were constructed to be accessible. In addition, one car of every M-2 pair and M-4 triplet on the New Haven Line is scheduled to be made accessible as the cars are cycled through for overhaul. Each of the Bombardier cab cars used in the diesel locomotive-hauled trains for the New Haven Line and Shore Line East are already accessible. It is believed that there are sufficient accessible cars available to satisfy the one-car-per-train requirement by the deadline.


In 1991, the Bureau of Waterways was absorbed into the Bureau of Aviation and Ports. The Bureau regulates transportation on waterways, including licensing pilots, registering agents of foreign vessels, maintaining and operating the Connecticut River ferries (Rocky Hill - Glastonbury and Chester - Hadlyme), and overseeing the operation of the State Pier. The Bureau also provides technical assistance and advice to the governor-appointed harbor masters, the Connecticut Coastline Port Authority, and the Connecticut State Marine Pilot Commission.

The majority of the state's water transportation occurs on Long Island Sound, on the Connecticut, Housatonic, and Thames Rivers, and in the harbors of New Haven, Bridgeport, New London, Stamford, and Norwalk. The primary cargoes shipped through Connecticut ports and navigable rivers today include petroleum products, scrap metal, sand and gravel, chemicals, shellfish, and forest products. New Haven is the largest commercial port in the state, followed by New London and Bridgeport.

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At the State Pier in New London, a number of capital improvements were made by the Navy in 1984, including a new administration building, an expanded berthing area for auxiliary vessels, and secured parking for navy personnel. All Navy property at the pier was transferred to the state in 1995, coincident with the end of the Navy's lease of space at the pier..

Until 1993, when the State Pier was closed due to structural problems, cargo imported through the facility included lumber, paper, hemp, copper, and steel. Exports from the pier have included waste paper and liner board to the Far East and the People's Republic of China.

Bids to demolish and reconstruct the pier were advertised in March of 1995. The revitalized pier will become the interest of the Connecticut Coastline Port Authority, an agency created in 1993 to promote all three of Connecticut's ports -- New Haven, Bridgeport and New London. For the economic health of the seacoast and the state, the authority hopes to establish a niche or specialty cargo for each port.


Flexibility in funding, along with the realization that transportation needs to be coordinated on a statewide and national basis, increased significantly in 1991 with the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). The purpose of the act is to "develop a National Intermodal Transportation System that is economically efficient, environmentally sound, provides the foundation for the Nation to compete in the global economy and will move people and goods in an energy efficient manner."

As part of the overall program restructuring, ISTEA also repealed the Federal-aid Primary, Secondary, and Urban Systems and their associated funding categories. In their place, three new categories of assistance were established: the National Highway System, the Surface Transportation Program (STP), and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). Other major categories, such as the Interstate Maintenance (formerly known as the Interstate 4R Program), Bridge, Federal Lands, and Emergency Relief Programs, were continued under the ISTEA. Also, the Interstate Construction Program was funded for four more years, to complete the financing of the Interstate System.

Federal funds allocated for specific facilities, such as bridge replacement or the interstate system, can be transferred to support construction of public roads or to develop public transit solutions to urban congestion. ISTEA also provides incentives for mass transportation projects by making the federal/state share of costs between highways and transit more equitable than it had been previously.

ISTEA also contains flexible funding provisions which allow the states to use traditional highway funding categories for transit purposes and to use transit funding for highway purposes. The Department has taken advantage of these flexible funding provisions to implement various priority transit projects.

Under ISTEA, funding for highway and mass transit is tied directly to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Projects that are not consistent with the requirements of the act will not get funding.

Finally, the act also requires more coordination among the various modes of transportation, stipulating that each state develop a statewide planning process, a statewide transportation plan, and a statewide transportation program. These steps had already been in place in Connecticut for 30 years. In addition, states must develop, establish, and implement six management systems -- pavement, bridge, highway safety, traffic congestion, public transportation facilities and equipment, and intermodal transportation facilities and systems. These management systems collect information that is then used in statewide planning and transportation system management efforts.

ISTEA will have a continuing impact on the programs and planning of the Department at least in the near future. The Department's 1994 strategic plan included six goals: to ensure safety; to maintain the existing system; to increase system productivity; to promote economic development; to provide required capacity; and to utilize available funds effectively. For the first time in the Department's history, new roadway construction will not be the primary means of increasing system productivity. Although some additional roadways may be constructed in the future, the opening of I-291 northeast of Hartford marked the completion of the Interstate System and, hence, the end of an era of massive highway building in the state.


One notable aspect of ISTEA is a strengthening of the Department's already considerable regional planning function. As required by various federal highway laws, the Department had been working cooperatively with the state=s designated Regional Planning Organizations (RPO) since 1959. The RPOs, which are comprised of Regional Planning Agencies (RPA), Councils of Elected Officials (CEO) and Councils of Governments (COG), conduct planning activities for specific geographic areas within the state. Each RPO consists of a number of member municipalities.

The RPOs work extensively to assist local municipalities in achieving economies of scale in providing planning and administrative services, and in coping with increasingly complex municipal management and planning practices. They also represent municipalities and provide a forum for addressing inter- municipal concerns on issues pertaining to state and federal programs.

As of May 1995, the State of Connecticut had 15 designated RPOs. The ten RPOs located in urbanized areas of more than 50,000 population are designated by the Governor to serve as Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO). MPOs conduct transportation planning as specified by the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). ISTEA requires that MPOs have a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning process that results in plans and programs that consider all transportation modes and supports metropolitan community development and social goals. The other five RPOs, referred to as Rural RPOs, conduct transportation planning for the rural areas of the state in cooperation with the Department.

The Department works closely with the MPOs to develop and update the Long Range Plan (LRP), to develop and obtain endorsements of the Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP), to develop their Unified Planning Work Programs (UPWP) and to develop and obtain

an endorsement of an Air Quality Conformity Statement. An MPO's LRP includes both short-range and long-range strategies and actions that lead to the development of an integrated intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient movement of people and goods within the MPO's region. The UPWP is a statement of proposed work and estimated costs that document the eligible activities to be undertaken with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) planning funds. The Air Quality Conformity Statement demonstrates that the TIP conforms with the requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990.

Since the inception of regional planning, the Department has actively been working with the regions. With the establishment in 1974 of the Department's Field Coordination Unit, it coordinated meetings between Department personnel and the RPOs to discuss various transportation issues, and Department liaisons have attended the RPO technical committee meetings and policy board meetings on a regular basis to represent the Department and answer questions on transportation issues.


As the environmental impact process authorized by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) continued to be applied to transportation projects, a level of increased environmental awareness and subsequent federal and state environmental laws and regulations has increasingly shaped transportation policy and decisions. Some of these subsequent environmental regulations included the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act Amendments, state wetlands statutes, coastal zone management, and numerous Executive Orders, laws and regulations to protect wetlands, floodplains, farmlands, historic resources and public recreation areas.

In Connecticut, as in many other states, the expanding environmental process, while resulting in more environmentally sensitive designs, resulted in increased project cost, increased project timeframe and, often, in reduced project scope. Many project designs proposed by the Department, including Route 6, Route 7, Route 25, and I-291, were modified to make them more acceptable to regulatory agencies or to the public. The environmental process also opened the way for increased litigation on transportation projects. This also contributed to increased project costs.


As the environmental process evolved, the importance of public involvement became increasingly apparent. The public's right to know what was being planned and to have input to the planning process was recognized as an important part of project development. Although some degree of public involvement had always been part of the NEPA process, the Department became increasingly aware during the late 1980s and the early 1990s that the successful implementation of transportation projects now necessitated the building of consensus by all involved parties, including the public, as to the nature of the problem, the benefits and impacts of a set of alternative solutions, and the rationale for recommending one alternative solution over the others.


In 1993, the Department's central office was consolidated under one roof for the first time. A new administration building designed for the needs of the Department was built on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington. Employees from the former building in Wethersfield and personnel from other satellite offices in the Greater Hartford area are now able to be housed together to make operations more efficient.

Making operations more efficient was in keeping with the Department's Total Quality Effort Program, which had been instituted on September 16, 1992, under Commissioner Emil H. Frankel. Commissioner Frankel served from February of 1991 until January of 1995. From Weston, Commissioner Frankel was an experienced attorney with a law degree from Harvard University Law School. Prior to his appointment, he owned and managed a real estate consulting firm specializing in asset management and business reorganization.

In January of 1995, Commissioner J. William Burns returned as head of the Department, the only commissioner in its 100-year history to serve more than one inconsecutive term. Prior to his 1981 appointment, Commissioner Burns was Under Secretary and then Deputy Secretary of the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management from 1977 to 1981. Between 1975 and 1977, he had served the Department as an Executive Assistant.


While the 1980s was characterized by the need for retroactive repair and reconstruction, the Department envisions a future targeted on the proactive strategic goals of maintaining the existing transportation infrastructure system and maximizing system efficiency, with safety always in mind. Secondary goals are promoting economic development and providing required capacity. These goals will be carried out through the Infrastructure Renewal Program, the Department's ongoing program of capital investment in Connecticut's transportation infrastructure.

The program would be impossible without the funding provided by the Special Transportation Fund (STF) and the funding provided by federal highway, federal transit and federal aviation sources. Approximately $170 million in bonds and $20 million in pay-as-you-go (non-bonded) appropriations are invested in Connecticut's transportation infrastructure annually. State funds are supplemented by approximately $450 million of federal funds each year, resulting in a total of approximately $650 million of expenditures on state transportation infrastructure renewal each year. Some local funds are also expended, but these comprise a very minor share.

The Special Transportation Fund (STF) was established by the state legislature as part of the 1984 Transportation Infrastructure Renewal Program. Approximately 80 percent of STF revenues come from the motor fuels tax and motor vehicle receipts combined, with the motor fuels tax generating more than half. Although gasoline consumption has remained fairly steady since 1985, the gas tax has risen from 15 cents per gallon at the end of 1985 to 20 cents per gallon at the end of 1994, providing a reliable source of revenue for the fund. Interest income, license and permit fees, transfers from the General Fund, and FTA grants are additional but relatively minor sources of revenue. In fiscal year (FY) 1994, STF revenues exceeded $700 million, up from just over $400 million in 1985.

Established to finance the 1984 Transportation Infrastructure Renewal Program, the STF pays the operating expenses of the Department as well as the interest, principal and administrative costs (debt service) due from the sale of bonds. The major share of the operating budget consists of salaries of Department personnel, pension and fringe benefits of Department, Department of Motor Vehicle and Highway Patrol personnel, Town Aid expenditures, rail subsidies, and bus subsidies. In FY 1995, $293 million of STF expenditures were allocated to the Department's operating budget.

The sale of bonds continues to fund the Infrastructure Renewal Program. The condition of revenues and expenditures are closely evaluated to determine the level of bonding that can be supported by the STF, with debt service being one of the primary considerations. The level of debt service supported by the STF has varied over the years, ranging from 26 percent of total fund expenditures in 1988 to a high of 46 percent of total expenditures in 1993. The level of debt service remains close to 45 percent, a level anticipated at least through 1997. Debt service must be paid before any other STF expenditures.

During the 10 years from 1985 through 1994, a total of $7.5 billion was spent on improvements to the state's transportation system. Of this amount, $3.62 billion came from state funds while $3.95 billion came from federal funds. The ratio of federal dollars to state dollars has fluctuated year to year. The greatest source of federal funding is ISTEA, which, since its enactment in 1991, has authorized specific funding levels and formulas for each fiscal year (FY). The ratio of federal to state funds has grown under ISTEA. Likewise, funding provided to Connecticut under ISTEA has generally increased each year, from $370 million in FY 1992 to $414 million in FY 1995. For FY 1997, ISTEA funding is anticipated to be $474 million, with a federal/state funding ratio of 70/30. This outlook is very favorable for the state, indicating that the Department will be able to make excellent headway on implementing its transportation improvement goals in the near future, if not for the next 100 years.

Content Last Modified on 9/9/2003 10:20:04 AM