PA 17-192—sHB 7138

Transportation Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT OF MAJOR TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS AND PLANNING

SUMMARY: This act establishes an 18-member Transportation Policy Advisory Council as part of the executive branch and within the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) for administrative purposes only. It charges the council with various responsibilities related to transportation policy, including reviewing the five-year transportation capital plan developed annually by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The act requires DOT, in consultation with specified commissioners and legislators, to develop and submit for legislative approval a method for assessing each transportation project to determine the project's impact on economic development, transit-oriented development, housing development, access to employment, the environment, traffic congestion, and public safety. The act generally (1) requires the commissioner to use the method to assess each “transportation project” as defined by the act and (2) prohibits the commissioner from requesting funding for any project he has not assessed.

Under the act, a “transportation project” is any transportation planning or capital project that the state begins on or after July 1, 2018 that (1) expands capacity on a limited access highway, transit or railroad system, or parking facility or (2) is estimated to cost at least $150 million.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017, except for provisions related to the project assessment method, which are effective upon passage.

TRANSPORTATION POLICY ADVISORY COUNCIL

Council Membership and Procedure

Under the act, the council has 18 members, 13 of whom are voting members and five of whom do not vote. Eight of the voting members are appointed (two by the governor and one by each of the six legislative leaders) and five serve ex-officio: the OPM secretary, who acts as the chairperson; state treasurer; and commissioners of the departments of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Housing. The five nonvoting members are the DOT commissioner and the chairpersons and ranking members of the Transportation Committee. The OPM secretary, the treasurer, and the commissioners may each be represented by a designee.

Under the act, legislative appointees can be legislators. (It appears that such an appointment may violate a state constitutional and statutory ban on legislators holding positions in the executive branch (Conn. Const., art. III 11; CGS 2-5).) All of the appointees serve at the pleasure of, and their terms are coterminous with, their appointing authorities. Appointing authorities fill any vacancies.

The act requires initial appointments to the council to be made by December 1, 2017 and the OPM secretary to schedule and hold the council's first meeting by February 1, 2018. Three-fourths of the council's voting members constitute a quorum.

Council members are not paid but may be reimbursed, within available funding, for necessary expenses they incur.

Council Powers and Duties

Under the act, the council has various powers and duties related to transportation policy. The act charges the council with:

1. developing and recommending policies to improve transportation planning and select transportation projects;

2. advising the DOT commissioner on policies to promote economic development, transit-oriented development, housing development, access to employment, environmental protection, and the specific needs of geographic areas of the state; and

3. reviewing assessments of transportation projects (see below).

The act requires the council to review the five-year transportation capital plan DOT develops each year, including:

1. examining the plan's impact on the state's present and future transportation needs;

2. evaluating whether the plan assures the development of an adequate, safe, and efficient transportation system; and

3. conducting an annual public hearing on the plan and seeking testimony from metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) on transportation projects within their district boundaries. (MPOs, comprised of local government and transportation officials, provide regional input and work with DOT in the federally required transportation planning process.)

The act also authorizes the council to (1) obtain from any executive branch agency, board, commission, or other state agency any data or assistance it needs to fulfill its charge and (2) perform any other necessary and appropriate acts.

The council may also establish committees to advise it. The committees must consist of transportation professionals, advocates, and other interested stakeholders.

Reporting

The council must annually report on its activities, starting by January 1, 2019, to the Transportation and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees.

TRANSPORTATION PROJECT ASSESSMENT METHOD

The act requires the DOT commissioner to develop a method to assess each transportation project's impact on economic development, transit-oriented development, housing development, access to employment, the environment, traffic congestion, and public safety. In doing so, the commissioner must consult with the OPM secretary; chairpersons and ranking members of the Transportation and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees; and the DECD, DEEP, and housing commissioners.

Legislative Review and Approval

By February 1, 2018, the act requires the DOT commissioner to submit the assessment method to the Transportation Committee. The committee must meet to approve or reject the method within 60 days of receiving it. The method becomes effective upon the committee's affirmative vote or failure to take action by the 60-day deadline. If the committee rejects the method, the DOT commissioner must revise it and return it to the committee within 30 days after the rejection.

Assessment of Projects

Beginning July 1, 2018, the act requires the DOT commissioner to assess each transportation project using the approved assessment method. The commissioner must submit the assessments to the council and post them on DOT's website.

The act prohibits the commissioner from including a project in the five-year capital plan if he has not assessed the project using the approved method. It also prohibits him from submitting a bonding or appropriation request to the legislature for a project if he has not submitted the project's assessment to the council, unless the project (1) is necessary to maintain the state's infrastructure in good repair, as determined by the commissioner and (2) does not meet the act's definition of transportation project.

The act requires the DOT commissioner to annually report to the Transportation and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees, starting by January 1, 2019, on the transportation project assessments completed in the previous calendar year.