Business survey finds area highways pose economic roadblock
More lanes on Interstate 95 and other state highways to break up bottlenecks was the top transportation remedy that would help businesses thrive, according to a survey of executives conducted by the state's largest business and trade organization.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association's 2013 Transportation Survey collected responses from 650 executives around the state this fall for the survey, with 55 percent of responses ranking highway capacity and improvement projects such as adding operational lanes on I-95 as the most economically helpful use of state transportation dollars. The survey was sponsored by New Haven-based power utility United Illuminating.
"Connecticut's economy will continue to stagnate unless we invest in improving connectivity both within the state and to the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas," said James Torgerson, chief executive officer of UI.
In the survey, 23 percent of business executives rated improved transportation systems as the government spending they were most willing to pay for, trailing only economic development which 37 percent of executives rated the top priority and education which 36 percent of respondents favored.
"We felt it was especially important, to conduct this survey to reaffirm for policy makers that this is still a critical issue for businesses and secondly that they have to be proactive to solve the problem," said Peter Gioia, an economist for CBIA. "The survey in part is a plea for help."
When asked about their primary transportation concern, 45 percent of respondents cited traffic and road congestion and 28 percent the maintenance of state roads and bridges, while 6 percent complained about rising transportation costs.
DOT officials declined comment on the survey Wednesday.
The survey also found that 74 percent of the respondents favored a legal block to thwart the use by the Connecticut General Assembly of Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund, which is set aside for highway and transit improvement projects, to cover other government expenses.
Since 1995, more than half the $5 billion raised for transportation projects has been diverted for non-transportation related government costs. Even with a lockbox in place, only 36 percent of those surveyed supported the idea of establishing electronic tolls to boost revenue for transportation projects, which Gioia said reflects a lack of belief that the money will not fill other budget gaps.
A new law, which goes into effect in 2015 that will prohibit legislators from siphoning transportation dollars doesn't reassure them, Gioia said.
"There is a law now, but it is difficult to say that it won't be reversed when they are facing a deficit and need $50 million or $100 million for something else," Gioia said.