By Glenn Richter
Spring has sprung, and by now I’ve pretty much memorized where all the worst potholes are between home and work — that is, most (but not all) of the gaping craters, many of them on state roads, that are almost big enough to swallow a Buick whole. But sometimes I forget, and then — WHAMMM! — there’s another one. Once or twice this past winter I actually got out of the car to make sure a wheel hadn’t cracked in half. (Note to self: Take the car in soon for a wheel alignment.)
And this is allegedly wealthy Connecticut, a place where people from other states figure everything is hunky-dory. Well, it ain’t.
Sure, there’s a transportation fund that’s supposed to take care of stuff like former Gov. Dan Malloy’s grandiose vision for this state’s transportation future. But right now we can’t even seem to keep up with our crumbling roads and 308 structurally deficient bridges, let alone do anything about the linear parking lot (I-95) that separates us from the rest of the country, let alone get a jump on future needs. (OK, the enhanced rail service on the Hartford Line may eventually pay off, but I doubt that the much-ballyhooed, $1,000-per-foot busway ever will.)
Meanwhile, Mr. Malloy was always pressing the Bond Commission to borrow huge sums ($795 million at its September 2018 meeting alone) for projects including a new parking garage in Stamford ($60 million); new technology at Metro-North stations ($12 million); rebuilding the New Haven Public Works facility ($10 million); brownfield remediation projects ($10 million); subsidizing Aer Lingus flights between Hartford and Dublin for four more years ($8.8 million); buying a parcel in Orange ($5.5 million); the Crescent Crossing project in Bridgeport ($5.5 million); Synchrony Bank in Stamford ($5 million, on top of $15 million previously allocated); $5 million each for Stamford-based Gartner Inc., open-space acquisition, an asbestos-removal program, and a museum in Norwalk; various Bridgeport projects ($4.3 million); a health center in Danbury ($3 million); sidewalks in New Haven ($2.3 million); dredging in Stamford ($1.5 million); Sikorsky Memorial Airport ($1 million); a theater in Torrington ($1 million); and lesser amounts to bail out a charter school in New Haven and to repair the historic reproduction of the Amistad slave ship.
Personally, I don’t begrudge the $370,000 for the Amistad; it’s a teaching tool and represents one of the few bright spots in the history of slavery in this state and nation. But every time I hit another pothole — WHAMMM! — I can’t help thinking about how we borrowed for all those seven-figure projects above, many of them in Stamford, the then-governor’s hometown.
And I also can’t help thinking about the run-down condition of that glorious pile of granite and marble in Hartford, our state Capitol, a masterpiece of late Victorian gothic architecture. Air pollution has badly stained the stone exterior, and pieces have broken off over the years. Window frames are cracked, according to The Connecticut Post, and during rain storms, buckets have to be placed in strategic spots to catch drips from the skylights six floors up.
Our National Historic Landmark is “god-awful filthy,” state Rep. Emil “Buddy” Altobello, D-Meriden, who chairs the 12-member State Capitol Preservation and Restoration Commission, told the Post.
So, as we limp from one pool of red ink to the next, let’s try to do something about the Capitol. This is infrastructure too.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.