Putting Climate Change in the Transportation Budget

No easy task for Connecticut

Climate Change and Transportation Planning
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Climate Change and Transportation Planning

 

As the state continues to remove historic amounts of snow from roads, no one yet knows what the price tag will be. One thing is certain: It will have an impact on the state’s transportation budget.

The budget proposal Governor Dannel Malloy announced last week included fare increases on bus riders, and some cutbacks on programs to encourage or improve public transit. But that wasn’t the focus of Connecticut’s lawmakers as they questioned transportation commissioner Jim Redeker on the budget this week. Republican state representative Arthur O’Neill wanted to know how much the storm cost.

“After this storm, do you think your budget is pretty well exhausted?” he asked. 

Redeker responded: “We hope not. I believe they’ll be some left, but I can’t tell you that yet.”

The Department of Transportation budgets for storms based on what’s happened in the last five years. Redeker said before this blizzard, the agency was right on target.

“We had five storms left in the typical year budget. Is this storm worth one, two, or six? I don’t know yet. Because we’re still spending money," he said.

A lot of the money spent on unusual storms like this one can be reimbursed with federal dollars. But given the Congressional tussle over emergency funding for Superstorm Sandy, that’s never a sure bet. Democratic state representative Toni Walker was looking for some long-term thinking about how to deal with more frequent and severe storms in the future.

“Where in this budget do I see preparation for the next 100-year storm that may be next week or the following week, and what are we doing to prepare ourselves in your budget?” she asked.

Redeker’s answer?

“This budget does not include anything extraordinary for any new climate-change types of initiatives and what it might mean to our maintenance.”

Redeker said that the department is looking into whether it might make sense to purchase equipment like snowblowers and payloaders instead of having to bring contractors in. And maybe the storm budget will have to increase in future years. But for right now, the state’s just focused on getting rid of all this snow.