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January 15, 2018

"Getting There" - Transportation Predictions for 2018

Recently I reviewed my transportation predictions for 2017 and gave myself a final grade of B+.  Not bad for a guy who doesn’t even own a crystal ball.

This week, I’m doubling down on some predictions and offering a few new ones.  So tuck this column away and give me a prognostication grade this time next year.

Commuters…  you’re not going to like this one.  With the Special Transportation Fund (STF) imperiled (see below) I predict that there won’t be money to pay for the additional M8 railcars on order for delivery in 2019.  Crowding will continue to the point that ridership will peak and start to drop.  Adding insult to toe-stepping injury, there will be calls for another fare increase of at least 10%.  Ouch.

As he threatened, Governor Malloy will cut transportation spending when the legislature does not act on new funding sources for the Special Transportation Fund.  Even before the STF runs dry, expect reduced or eliminated train service, fewer road repairs, less snow plowing, etc.   It’s going to be bad, really bad.

Before we see discussion of new tolls or taxes, we will need a lock-box on the STF.  We will have a chance to vote on that in a November referendum.  But I predict the vote will be “NO”… not because we don’t need a lock-box, but because the one proposed won’t be secure enough to persuade cynical voters it would be pilfer-proof.  A “no vote” on the lock-box will put any new tolls or taxes for transportation in question.

This is a hard one to call because none of the dozens of early-announced would-be candidates for Governor have said anything about transportation.  They all know this is going to be a crucial issue.  But they also know that voters don’t want any new taxes or tolls.  So, who among this gaggle of wannabe Governors will have the guts to be honest on this issue?  That’s the man (or woman) who’ll get my vote, if s/he exists.

In the wake of the recent Amtrak crash near Tacoma WA, this technology to control our trains is years late, millions over budget and in some peril.  Despite a three year extension by Congress, I fear that Metro-North will not have Positive Train Control up and running by the 12/31/18 deadline.

Fresh from his first (and only) legislative victory in 2017, President Trump will bask in the glory of his mighty tax cut but he will not be able to get Congress to make good on his promise to spend $1 trillion to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.  Why?  Because deficit-nervous Republicans won’t stomach the cost and so despise the Democrat-dominant Northeast that they’ll say “No way” to our multi-billion dollar projects.

Autonomous cars and trucks will start showing up on our roads.  The occasional accident will raise calls for better safety.  But the age of the auto-bots will continue, and we here in Connecticut will either get onboard or be declared irrelevant.


Elon Musk’s controversial system of high-speed tunnels will continue occupying the headlines despite predictions of its eventual failure.  A prototype has been completed and tested even as his Boring Company continues drilling.  But money problems at Tesla will drain his bank account and Hyperloop will be put on hold.

Those are my predictions for 2018.  Check back next year and see if I’m right.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

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