UConn to plumb economic benefits of a Sound tunnel

If investment in New London’s State Pier can juice Connecticut’s economy, what might a tunnel under Long Island Sound do?

Fred Carstensen, professor of finance and economics and director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, aims to find out.

At the very least, Carstensen says, the possibility of a cross-Sound tunnel ought to have “significant relevance” for New London-area businesses in the wake of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s announcement last week that $15 million has been committed to State Pier infrastructure improvements to accommodate the offshore wind industry.

Carstensen is hoping businesses will respond to an online survey posted at www.liscrossing.com, the first step in a study the CCEA is undertaking and hopes to pursue in a partnership with other research groups. The survey asks, among other things, how Connecticut and Long Island, N.Y., businesses would utilize cross-Sound access to expand their operations and how much they might save by not having to route goods through New York City.

“Linking the regions will thus generate broad benefits on both sides of the Sound,” Carstensen wrote last month in an online UConn Today opinion-editorial piece. “The fundamental question is whether net new benefits will be sufficient to justify the investment.”

While Connecticut seems to have barely contemplated a Sound-crossing initiative in recent years, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for a $5 million feasibility study, released earlier this year, that considers a number of proposals. Newsday, the Long Island newspaper, reported that the study recommended further consideration of crossings between Oyster Bay, Long Island, and Rye and Port Chester in New York’s Westchester County; and between Kings Park, Long Island, and Bridgeport or Milford, Conn.

The options included bridges, tunnels and combinations of the two, their price tags ranging as high as $55.4 billion. Opposition to the proposals was widespread.

Carstensen, in a phone interview Tuesday, said he was encouraged by Connecticut's commitment to State Pier, saying such investment could change the dynamics of what a cross-Sound tunnel might deliver. He said that while a tunnel likely would connect well west of New London, the link could facilitate the shipment of freight arriving here.

“I see a whole variety of potential benefits,” Carstensen said. “We have a contracting economy in Connecticut. We really need to be thinking big.”

In his view, Connecticut also needs to be collaborating with its neighbors.

“The real question is whether this is something Connecticut should be actively discussing with New York,” he said. “In the five-state region of southern New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island), New York and New Jersey, we ought to be pursuing interstate compacts, not competing with each other."

“In Connecticut, we ought to be the most aggressive because our economy is the worst,” he said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments