Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, have worked well together in resurrecting a Route 11 completion plan that even local officials were close to giving up on. A few weeks ago the regional council of governments, made up of local elected officials, almost left the proposal off its transportation priority list, fearing it would never have sufficient political support. On Monday Gov. Malloy announced the commencement of planning studies that could have the project ready for construction within three years.
That's an impressive turnaround and a testament to the governor's personal attention to the project.
The state will pay for additional environmental and design studies using $4.4 million in federal highway funding that Rep. Courtney, following on the work of his predecessors, had fought for but which could not be tapped without a clear state commitment. State contributions will bring the total to $5 million.
We're skeptical that so much additional study is necessary. While the state has to update prior environmental assessments, go into greater design detail and develop a financing strategy, the goal must be to build upon work already accomplished, not waste time or money redoing prior studies.
Most important, however, this governor recognizes the value of building 8.3 miles of new highway that will take Route 11 from where it ends in Salem and tie it in to an interchange with interstates 95 and 395. His predecessor, Gov. M. Jodi Rell, officially supported the project but never put the full weight of her administration behind it. In 2009, the state Department of Transportation effectively abandoned it as unfunded.
Significant economic benefits would result from a safe, easy Route 11 link between the Hartford area and southeastern Connecticut. With only one exit, the new artery would not cause the development sprawl that the federal Environmental Protection Agency typically fears with new highway construction. In fact, its planned "greenway" of undeveloped open space running adjacent to the extended Route 11 will block the suburban growth that might occur in the highway's absence.
Paying for this environmentally sensitive project will be expensive, perhaps nearing $1 billion, using federal and state funds. A toll could supplement the cost, though probably not cover it. We suspect most drivers would be willing to pay a reasonable toll to avoid the slower, more congested and dangerous Route 85.
Gov. Malloy realizes large investments in transportation infrastructure are necessary for the state's long-term economic security.
This is the governor who can finally finish Route 11.