A CENTURY'S WORTH OF CHANGE AND A DIFFERENT WORLD
As the Connecticut Department of Transportation sits poised on the brink of the next one hundred years, it is clear that the Department is a very different agency from the Connecticut Highway Commission that was formed one hundred years ago in 1895. From an agency with the single focus of building and regulating roadways, the Department has evolved into a true multimodal agency with widely diverse transportation responsibilities.
However, while the Department has gone through a continuing evolution and many changes, perhaps the most profound change is that the Department is now operating in a very different world than during most of its century of existence. For most of its history, the Department's focus was on the construction of new and larger facilities to meet the demands of increasing population and increasing travel (particularly increasing automobile travel).
In 1995, the focus of the Department, and indeed the focus of the U.S. DOT and transportation agencies throughout the nation, has changed to that of managing facilities and managing travel to get the most efficient use out of our existing transportation facilities and resources. A number of contributing factors have combined to bring about this change. These include: insufficient resources for major new facilities; increasing congestion; concerns about the environmental and land development impacts of new roadway construction; air quality concerns and the requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments; and the development of new technology and new techniques in traffic management.
Perhaps the most solid impetus to redefine national transportation policy was the passage by Congress in 1991 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), a landmark piece of transportation policy and funding legislation. ISTEA recognized the need to maintain and enhance our existing transportation infrastructure, the need for true, integrated multimodal planning, the need for local flexibility in the allocation of federal transportation funds, and the need for efficiency in the operation of transportation facilities.
Of great importance also is the fact that change in today's world seems to occur so rapidly, with the development of new technologies, information management, access to the information superhighway, and all the speed and complication of modern life. The existence of the U.S. DOT, which only came about in the late 1960s, is now rapidly changing. The Urban Mass Transportation Administration was changed to the Federal Transit Administration as part of ISTEA. And in 1995, a major overhaul and reorganization of the U.S. DOT was proposed which, if passed by Congress, would change the nature of that agency entirely.
In the coming years the Connecticut Department of Transportation will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of changing times. As the Department steps out into its second century, the future is unknown and uncertain. However, the Department's commitment to meeting Connecticut's transportation needs and to solving Connecticut's transportation problems will continue to drive its decision making and policies.
* * *
Farther into the future it is impossible to say what new regulations, funding levels, or mandates will be encountered by the Department as it pursues its mission of meeting Connecticut's transportation needs. In this year of its 100th anniversary, the Department faces a future in which it must manage its resources more carefully than ever before as transportation problems continue to become more complex. Integration of transportation solutions, emphasis on the environment, and working within the stipulations of ISTEA and future federal legislation promise to challenge the Department well into the future.