The July gas tax increase

Last week marks the 30th anniversary of the Mianus River Bridge collapse, which killed three people. That accident on I-95 in Greenwich was attributed to years of neglected inspections and maintenance, the inevitable result of penny-pinching in Hartford.

Will the recent Metro-North crash (which injured 76 passengers), also be tied to long-postponed repairs?

Recently, the CDOT’s commissioner testified before U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal that Connecticut has spent $3.2 billion in the last decade on the New Haven rail line, while Amtrak spent just $64 million. And all that spending still couldn’t prevent the May 17 derailment.

But, Commissioner James Redeker also said there’s another $4.5 billion needed to bring the line into a “state of good repair,” in the short term. That includes work on the catenary and replacement of four movable bridges, some of them 100+ years old. Layer on top of this $130 million to meet the federal mandate for PTC (Positive Train Control), and you can see the problem.

Where’s the money to come from?

Well, it will come from you and me. On July 1, we will all start paying an additional four cents per gallon for gasoline, tax money that will go into the Special Transportation Fund (STF), supposedly to be spent on rails and roads.

But remember that it was Gov. Malloy who (again) balanced this year’s state budget by raiding $110 million from that STF, something that, as a candidate, he swore he would never do. Voters will decide if that makes Malloy a hypocrite … or just a pragmatist. Either way, future governors won’t be able to do it again, as the legislature has voted to put the STF into an untouchable “lock box” starting in 2015, after the next election.

Over the past decade, various lawmakers and governors have stolen a billion dollars from the STF. So not only are we about $4.5 billion short on needed funds for rail repairs, but the STF has been treated like a petty cash box and drained at will.

How sad it is when we have to balance our state’s budget by taking money targeted for keeping our rails and highways safe … not to mention starting a state-wide keno game, basically a “tax” on those ignorant enough to play it (with odds of about nine million to one of winning the jackpot).

Kudos to Sen. Blumenthal for pushing safety as a top priority. Maybe he can also get Amtrak to start paying its fair share for running trains over our (state-owned and maintained) tracks.

But it’s not just our rails that are in bad shape. This week the group Transportation for America released its annual report on the deterioration of U.S. highway bridges: one in nine of those bridges is structurally deficient and in need of repair or replacement. In Connecticut, that number has grown, not declined, since last year.

Yet, our DOT is still moving forward with a half-billion dollar rebuild of the structurally sound Waterbury “mix-master,” where Route 8 crosses I-84. Why?

So, next time you’re filling your tank with the priciest gasoline in the Northeast, pick-up a keno ticket. You might have a better chance of winning there than ever seeing your taxes spent on improving transportation safety.

 

Jim Cameron has been a Darien resident for 22 years. He is chairman of the CT Metro-North/Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You may reach him at jim@mediatrainer.tv or trainweb.org/ct.

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

  • Zach

    Connecticut currently holds the position of one of the top ten states with the most expensive gasoline prices. On June 25, 2013 Governor Malloy informed our state that gas rate will rise, once again, due to a new tax on gasoline. This tax ensured that on July 1st, 2013 the gas will begin to rise by $.04 per gallon. It is predicted to raise anywhere between $.04 and $.08 from then on. Connecticut already has two taxes on gasoline as it is. There is a $.25 charge at the gas pump and an additional $.22 per gallon due to the state’s wholesale petroleum tax. In the past year Governor Malloy committed to “ensuring the state lives within its means,” “Hard spending cuts,” and “NO tax increases.” It is concerning that taxes are already rising when our state was informed otherwise. I understand we are in a better position now than we were a year ago. Gas now averages $3.77 statewide whereas a year ago it was a little over four dollars. However, this has happened in the past and with the direction we are heading in now with these increased prices and fluctuation in oil prices, it is not looking too good. Also, it is the largest gas tax increase in Connecticut’s history. As a recent college graduate, the new increase in gasoline prices is extremely concerning. With student loans, the great expense of living in Connecticut, and the continuous growth in prices of gas, creating a life here as a recent graduate does not seem very promising. With thousands of recent grads attempting to get their own feet, it seems as if we are being driven out by our own state.
    -Zachary Hannan, Milford CT

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. Milford Mirror, 1000 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT 06484

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress