- Associated Press - Monday, August 25, 2014

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is trying to pitch his efforts to help municipalities replace and rehabilitate local bridges, contending his administration has done more than previous ones to fund transportation improvement efforts in Connecticut.

The Democrat’s appearance Monday at the Old Main Street Bridge project in Wethersfield came as transportation funding is becoming a major issue in this year’s race for governor. Malloy’s Republican challenger, Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, has accused the first-term governor of “raiding” the state’s Special Transportation Fund by not transferring about $190 million into the account, which is dedicated for transportation-related expenses.

“This political stunt is sure to backfire with commuters who know that Malloy’s reckless raiding of the Special Transportation Fund has resulted in Connecticut having the worst roads and bridges in the nation, according to the White House, with 73 percent of our roads in ‘poor or mediocre condition’ and nearly 10 percent of our bridges classified as ‘structurally deficient,’” said Chris Cooper, a campaign spokesman for Foley.

But Malloy insisted Monday that his office has contributed more than $1.3 billion to the Special Transportation Fund. He said that’s more than any previous administration, and that Foley’s accusation is inaccurate. While some money has been transferred in and out of the account, Malloy said there has ultimately been a net increase in funding.

“We are spending more General Fund money and more state bonded money on transportation than any other administration,” Malloy said. “That is the fact. You can slice this and dice this on an accounting basis which funds go where, but when everything is said and done, we’re spending more money than any other administration.”

There are more than 3,400 bridges and culverts on municipally maintained roads in Connecticut. While the maintenance and construction of those bridges is the responsibility of the local cities and towns, the General Assembly in 1984 created the State Local Bridge Program to provide state grants to help municipalities cover the cost.

Unlike other funding programs that reimburse communities, this initiative provides grants before the work begins to reduce the initial financial burden on municipalities. The grants usually range between 15 to 50 percent of a project’s total cost. Malloy contends his administration got “projects moving” by providing cities and towns with additional money. Malloy said his administration funneled an additional $25 million over the last two years to the local bridge program. That’s in addition to about $35 million in state funds over two years to replace or rehabilitate 48 bridges across the state.

While Cooper said he was surprised Malloy would want to raise the issue of transportation, given the state’s traffic congestion problems, Malloy said he’s proud of his record.

“I know what we’re doing,” he said. “And I have been steadfast in my commitment to transportation.”

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