By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ More than $537 million in borrowing to help fund construction and maintenance projects across Connecticut was approved Friday, including money for improvements to state highways, bridges, and rail and transit systems.

Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said the authorizations by the State Bond Commission mark the state’s largest allotment of transportation funds for the year. With the state money now in place, he said Connecticut will be qualified for about $600 million in federal matching funds this fall.

“This is the money that leverages all of the federal money,” he said. “As soon as the federal money is there, all of that money is in place and ready to match projects.”

The list of tasks set to receive funding includes resurfacing 250 lane miles of state highways, widening of I-84 in Waterbury, reconstruction of exits along I-84 in the Danbury area, and 40 bridge restoration projects, including continuation of New Haven’s Q Bridge work along I-95.

Redeker said the DOT is successfully chipping away at a backlog in bridge maintenance. According to DOT records, there was a backlog of 4,117 maintenance items at the end of 2011. By the end of 2012, that number was reduced to 3,824. The agency’s short-term goal is to maintain a “zero gain” in the backlog. In subsequent years, DOT hopes to significantly decrease it.

“We’ve reorganized our troops to try to really focus on this,” he said. “And it’s bringing our statistics down.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is chairman of the State Bond Commission, said it makes sense to tackle maintenance projects now, “so we aren’t paying more out-of-pocket down the road when our highways and bridges reach the end of their design life.” As part of the $537 million, the commission approved $115 million for the Fix-it-First State Bridges and Roads program, which focuses on preventive maintenance and repair.

Redeker said funding was also approved to design the replacement for the 100-year-old signaling system along Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line. He said DOT is also designing and starting to implement a safety system called “Positive Train Control.”

Malloy’s office estimates the $537 million in bonds will ultimately create or retain nearly 20,000 construction-related jobs.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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