Commentary: Markley defends his position on CT Fastrak

State Sen. Joe Markley (R), 16th district

State Sen. Joe Markley (R), 16th district

I credit my opponent with conviction, on display in an Observer op-ed this summer extolling the New Britain to Hartford busway. We should be clear with the voters about what we believe, and nothing says big-government like CT Fastrak.

I do not think the problems of our day will be solved by vast new government projects. But my opponent Ryan Rogers is a true progressive, a Bernie Sanders supporter who seems whole-heartedly to embrace the endless expansion of government, for our own good.

I believe Rogers is sincere but mistaken. He might return me that respect and not impugn my motives. In his op-ed, Rogers claimed that I fought the busway to get attention. Every person reading this letter knows I’m bound to fight a boondoggle like that, for I hate to see tax dollars wasted.

I mocked the busway because, at $1,000 per inch, I thought it absurd, and knew others would see it the same. My opposition was based on the $567 million price tag, not its prospects. No imaginable ridership could justify that cost, nor do I see the ongoing subsidy as anything but good money after bad.

That most of the dollars were federal was the big pitch for the project. In fact, they’re all of them taxpayer dollars—federal money is our money too—and most of them are Connecticut dollars, since we controlled where they were spent.

We bonded $110 million for the project: certainly our money, which we’re paying with interest. Another $220 million came from flexible transportation funding given us each year by Washington—our allowance, in effect, which we could spend as we wished.

Without question, over half the money spent on the busway could instead have been used to repair, maintain, and improve our existing infrastructure. Taking care of what we have is challenge enough. In our current circumstances, I would not spend a dime on new projects.

I did not think it worth the money then and still don’t, but I leave that post mortem for the analysts. I’m focused on saving money we haven’t yet wasted.

During the next term, I expect a massive new proposal for the Hartford civic center: either half a billion dollars to renovate the existing flop, or two billion to blow it up and start over, which we’ll be told is the ‘smart’ solution.

When the roof caved in thirty-eight years ago and no soul was lost, we might have considered ourselves lucky and called it a day. Just so no one is surprised: I will oppose any new state money for the Hartford civic center. (Might we learn a lesson in downtown projects from the woes of Donut Stadium?)

The civic center is not a solution but a problem: four key blocks that sit empty, all day long nearly every day, big blank walls dividing the city. All it really generates for Hartford are two spurts of traffic: first into a garage, then out again a few hours later. It was a mistake from the start, and another huge expenditure on it now would be an XL waste.

Voters in the 16th District have an unusually clear choice for state senator this fall, between a big-government idealist, eager to use the law to fix the world, and a seasoned fiscal conservative forthrightly opposed to vast public projects and new taxes. Your vote will determine our state’s course in risky times.

Joe Markley is a Republican state senator in the 16th district.

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