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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Don’t dump port authority

    The response to past problems at the Connecticut Port Authority should not be to dissolve it, which a legislative proposal being put forward by Gov. Ned Lamont would essentially accomplish, but instead to ensure it is subject to stringent oversight.

    Legislation proposed by the governor would absorb the port authority into the Connecticut Airport Authority. It would continue to exist in name only, as the Connecticut Maritime Authority. The board of directors of the airport authority would also serve as the board of directors for the maritime authority. The airport authority’s executive director would oversee both airport and maritime authority operations.

    It is hard to imagine that the economic potential of the state’s deepwater ports in New London, New Haven, and Bridgeport and of its many coastal harbors and rivers would be maximized under such an arrangement. More likely, these assets would be relegated to second-class status behind the needs of air transportation.

    An economic analysis commissioned by the port authority in 2019, five years after its creation, found that the maritime industry in Connecticut generates $11.2 billion annually, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs. That analysis needs an update. The importance of the maritime industry has certainly grown. The point is, this is a big slice of the economy and deserves the attention of its own authority.

    The Connecticut Airport Authority, established in 2011, has plenty to deal with. It is charged with operating and improving Bradley International Airport and the state’s five general aviation airports in Groton-New London, Danielson, Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford and Windham.

    Rather than improving accountability, cramming too much responsibility under a single authority would seem more likely to undermine it.

    The scandals and past problems of the port authority have been documented in this newspaper and elsewhere. But one result has been improved oversight by both the executive and legislative branches. The port authority is on a tighter leash than when it was created. It makes more sense to provide time to see how that works, rather than starting again with yet another new approach.

    Adding to the oddity of this proposal is Lamont’s decision to introduce it in a short legislative session, when there is less time to adequately evaluate such a monumental shift.

    The General Assembly should pass on this proposal. It certainly must have more pressing matters.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.