Should Connecticut re-instate tolls on its major highways?
The ConnecticutÂ legislature is considering a bill (HB 6818) that would order the transportation commissioner to establish a toll-collection system onÂ the state’s major highways at its borders.Â The bill would also set up “safeguards to ensure that any toll revenue is deposited in the Special Transportation Fund (STF) and used only for transportation purposes.”
Witnesses — many from the state’s border communities — submitted testimony in opposition to the idea. A few were in favor. Here is an excerpted sampling of both. The full list of witnesses and their written testimony can be found here.Â
Jill Kelly and Carol Leighton
Co-Chairs, CT Citizens Transportation Lobby
The Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby is an organization of concerned citizens from around the state who came together in 2003 to advocate for safer highways and increased mass transit in Connecticut.
The CT-CTL has always strongly supported congestion mitigation on our Connecticut Interstates, the Merritt Parkway and Wilber Cross Highway. Â While we are pleased that the Transportation Committee is introducing legislation that would bring electronic tolling to Connecticut, we do not support H.B. 6818 as written — a proposal that would limit installation of tolls to state borders.
Such a restriction would not only be inadequate to help finance our highway system, but would be unfair to residents living near the borders or commuting to work across state lines.
We recommend that Connecticut install gantries on all interstates, the Merritt Parkway and Wilber Cross to help mitigate congestion on our roads.
Further, factor for time-of-day pricing should be included, with travel at peak times more expensive than during off peak hours. Â This will allow revenues to be used for general congestion-mitigation purposes such as mass transit alternatives.
I am in favor of border tolls. Â Although they are taxes, we Connecticut residents pay them in other states thus helping their state’s economy. Â Why shouldn’t out-of-staters have to do the same for our state and help us pay our road repair bills, roads that they are putting wear and tear on?
Border residents who chose to spend their money across the border in another state do it by choice. There are plenty of businesses in our state who could use their support.
Help your state and everyone in it!
Michael J. Riley
President, Motor Transport Association of Connecticut
MTAC, a statewide trade association, represents around 800 companies that operate commercial motor vehicles in and through the state of Connecticut. Our membership includes freight haulers, movers of household goods, construction companies, distributors, tank truck operators and hundreds of companies that use trucks in their business and firms that provide goods and services to truck owners.
There are limited circumstances in which tolling may be an appropriate option for funding new construction, such as the addition of new lanes without reducing current lane capacity. In any case, only the new lanes should be tolled and drivers should always be left with an alternate, equitable toll-free road.
TOLLING OF EXISTING INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS IS SIMPLY WRONG.
Turning existing highways into cash cows for individual states is unfair to the highway users who have paid for the construction and maintenance of these roads through the payment of fuel taxes. Fuel taxes have been the preferred funding method of the Interstate Highway System since its establishment in 1956. Subjecting users to additional tolls represents double taxation. Tolling on existing highways is nothing more than an ill-conceived quick fix for transportation funding shortfalls. Often toll revenue doesnâ€™t even end up funding highway projects.
Itâ€™s often said that some states around Connecticut have had highway and bridge tolls for many years. In those states, over time, tolls have steadily increased and the funds that were raised were often used for non highway projects.
Once the tolling mechanism is in place, itâ€™s a matter of time before it becomes another steady stream of revenue to be used by governments,Â rejecting the tie between user fees and how those fees are used. There is no reason why the people ofÂ Connecticut should expect anything different….
BORDER TOLLS ARE UNFAIR AND MAY BE ILLEGAL
If tolls are established, their burden should be spread across the state and not be borne disproportionately by citizens who live along the borders with neighboring states.
Additionally, border tolls charge everyone who enters the state the same amount. People who get off at the first exit in Greenwich, should not pay the same as people who travel I-95 all the way to Rhode Island.
Furthermore, border tolls likely violate the U.S. Constitutionâ€™s Commerce Clause, since placement of tolls at or close to a state border has the explicit intent of imposing a greater burden on interstate travelers than intrastate travelers. It is unlikely that such a scheme would survive a court challenge. I am confident there are certain national organizations opposed to tolling interstates that stand ready to file such a legal challenge.
The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut is fully supportive of the Governorâ€™s proposal to amend the Connecticut Constitution, creating a mechanism that protects transportation funds from being pilfered and spent on non-transportation projects.
For years, funds generated by highway users â€“ gasoline and diesel fuel taxes, gross earnings tax on petroleum products, license and registration revenue, fees, fines, fares, permits, and sales taxes on motor vehicles, have been transferred to the general fund to pay for non-transportation related expenses. Â We cannot finance a first in class transportation system in this state if the special Transportation Fund is used as a piggy bank to be broken into for any reason.
Michael J. Treadwell
I think tolls should be implemented again. The primary reason they were discontinued back in 1986 is because it was an election year and Gov. William O’Neill wanted to get reelected. Gov. O’Neill was not a bad guy. he just wanted to win reelection and getting rid of the tolls was a great way for him to do it. …
I know this is not politically popular for the politicians to bring back the tolls. And most politicians will oppose it to keep their job. However, the state roads and bridges are falling to pieces. Do we need another bridge to collapse like the Mianus River bridge did in 1983 in Greenwich?
Fixing the roads and bridges will require money. The tolls can bring in money for that purpose as long as the toll money is only used to fix the roads and bridges and not anything else.
Tolls are an opportunity to collect money from people just passing through the state who are not Connecticut residents. Why shouldn’t we charge these outsiders? And the revenue from trucks alone should be fairly large. They are using the roads and wearing them down, so toll them. That is what other states do.
Are other states afraid to use tolls? No they are not. Many other states have tolls. Nothing new about that. In New Jersey you can’t even exit the NJ Turnpike without paying a toll.
Paul J. Pugliese
President, Greenwich Land Company, Inc.
I am writing to express my extreme opposition to tolls in Southwestern CT. The tolls have, in the past, caused an unreasonable amount of traffic on our local streets which are already congested even more than they were prior to the removal of the old tolls at Exit 3.
I-95 brings goods and services to all of New England and serves as one of three crossing points to Port Chester NY. Local travelers and people trying to avoid the tolls using current GPS technologies will further impact our local residents and businesses.
We already have the burden of having I-95 bisecting the town. We should not be faced with the congestion pollution and disruption that tolls would cause. In addition, my business is between exit 2 and 5. While I try to avoid 95, it is convenient to go from 2 to 5 without paying a toll.
David Arconti, Jr.
State Representative, 109th District
Some of us agree that tolls are a bad idea for various reasons including traffic congestion, the potential loss of federal funding and the negative impact on our economy, just to name a few.
However, for Danbury, as one of the border towns being considered, the proposal could be devastating. Our city provides a large portion of revenue to Connecticutâ€™s coffers through the sales tax, earning us a prominent spot within the top ten municipalities contributing the most to Connecticutâ€™s economy through taxes.
Our economy thrives on Danburyâ€™s 1.3 million square foot mall and a robust downtown business district, which is patronized by neighboring towns and many out of state consumers.
An added toll would turn many of these valued consumers elsewhere. Many other bordering towns will have to deal with this same concern. Therefore, by implementing these tolls, we will be decreasing the growth of many of our high contributing municipalities.
I have heard about the potential for millions of dollars in generated revenue because of border tolls and its beneficial financial impact on our transportation infrastructure. While I am in favor of supporting revenue generators to help erase our budget deficit, I do not agree it should be done on the backs of commuters, including Connecticut drivers.
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