By Amy McLean Salls
As we leave behind the summer fun, send the kids back to school and return to our daily commutes, transportation challenges are front and center. In Connecticut, the core problems of aging infrastructure and congested roads are compounded by air pollution from growing vehicle emissions.
The condition of Connecticut’s transportation system is a drag on its economy. It limits opportunity, reduces commerce and business productivity, and costs the state millions in increased public health expenses. But Connecticut can take steps to start turning the corner. The state is a member of a regional partnership called the Transportation & Climate Initiative. Through that partnership Connecticut is developing a program to fund new investments in modern, clean transportation projects, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
In Connecticut’s major urban areas and arteries, worsening traffic congestion has led to roughly $2.4 billion annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Public bus transportation is either limited or non-existent in 70 Connecticut towns, slowing down commuters and reducing access to health care.
In searching for lasting solutions to boost our state’s economy and improve mobility, we must also consider the growing environmental impact of transportation. Cars, trucks and buses are now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Connecticut. Transportation is responsible for 40 percent of Connecticut’s greenhouse-gas emissions and about 67 percent of the state’s NOx emissions. This must be addressed for the state to meet its climate goals and to protect its most vulnerable populations.
In December 2018, Connecticut joined eight other TCI states and Washington, D.C. in a bold commitment to develop a regional cap-and-invest program to reduce transportation emissions. Connecticut Governor Nd Lamont has the opportunity to build on this progress towards a robust, regional, clean transportation program. The governor and leaders from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation are working with their peers from across the region to finalize the policy framework by the end of 2019.
If designed well, a TCI program will reduce vehicle pollution across the state, improving air quality and helping Connecticut meet its climate targets, while expanding and improving transportation options for all. In addition to cleaner air and better transportation, investment of TCI proceeds will create thousands of permanent jobs, spark economic growth and help local businesses.
Acadia Center just released a new analysis detailing the potential economic benefits of a TCI program. The report shows that by capping transportation carbon dioxide emissions, auctioning allowances, and investing proceeds — much like Connecticut already does for power plants emissions — the state could generate $2.7 billion in auction proceeds between 2021 and 2030. Acadia Center’s analysis further shows that investing these funds across the state’s transportation system would generate: 23,000 long-term jobs; $2.2 billion in new wages; $7 billion in new business sales; and $4.3 billion in other benefits, including reduced air pollution.
A TCI program can help Connecticut’s economy flourish. Cleaner air will reduce health costs. Less congested streets will cut down on commute times. Improved public transit will connect more Connecticut residents with the jobs, education, and health care they need to thrive.
Amy McLean Salls is the Connecticut director of the Acadia Center, which is dedicated to promoting effective solutions to tackle the problem of climate change.