A little more money for Connecticut's bridges..but not much

Governor promises to shore up local transportation infrastructure

More Money For Transportation Infrastructure -- But Not Much
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More Money For Transportation Infrastructure -- But Not Much

Governor Dannel Malloy announced a plan today to give local towns extra money to fix and maintain aging bridges. The news comes as a relief to local and state transportation officials dealing with more and more aging infrastructure and no money to deal with it.

Thirty years after the deadly Mianus River Bridge collapse on I-95, hundreds of bridges on Connecticut’s local roads are deemed to be in “poor” condition by the state – and many have not been inspected in more than two decades. Right now towns are responsible for inspecting the bridges on their local roads – but that doesn’t necessarily happen on a regular basis.

“A lot of them may not be aware that they need to inspect their bridges until a problem comes up," says Stan Juber, the administrator of the Department of Transportations’ local bridge program. He says more than 250 local bridges would be eligible for rehab or replacement through the program. The problem is, it’s out of money. Now, Malloy has proposed putting $15 million back into the fund. That’s a good start, Juber says, though it won’t fix the problem entirely.

“It’s always going to be a perennial funding fight," he says.

Juber says that just because a bridge is in “poor” condition doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. But, it means: “This is your wake-up call, essentially, once the bridge gets to poor condition, that you’re going to need to do something with this bridge soon, or you will need to close it in the not-too-distant future.”

The Department of Transportation has been asking for this money for several years. It also wants to start a statewide inspection program of the smaller local bridges, although that could also be a significant expense at a time of soaring deficits. Transportation officials say this $15 million proposal is a good start. But there’s a lot that hasn’t been addressed: This is only for local bridges owned by Connecticut towns. There are thousands more bridges on state roads and on federal highways – and many of those are also in poor condition.