Tolls are not the solution to Connecticut’s transportation-related financial problems.

Tolls are simply another tax which the residents of Connecticut cannot afford.

First we must address the excessive waste in our transportation system; “Connecticut spends $99,417 per mile of road in administrative costs, according to the Reason Foundation’s annual study on state transportation spending and effectiveness. Connecticut had the highest administrative costs in the country, which were nine times the national average of $10,864. The administrative cost per mile increased by 19 percent since the Foundation’s previous study in 2016.

According to the report, “Administrative disbursements typically include general and main-office expenditures in support of state-administered highways. They do not include project-related costs but occasionally include ‘parked’ funds, which are funds from bond sales or asset sales awaiting later expenditure.”

In total, Connecticut spent $497,659 per mile of road, the 44th most expensive in the nation. The average cost per mile was $178,116.”

Second, there is the cost. Current cost estimate for installing these toll gantries and collection system is $372 million, which will have to be recouped before any addition revenue is earned. Along with startup costs there are operational costs. According to Jonathan Peters, Professor of Finance for the College of Staten Island and Research Fellow at The University Transportation Research Center, “Tolls, generally, are expensive to collect. It’s not free. There’s a lot of technology and a lot of equipment and that equipment will have to be maintained and replaced over time.”

There will be millions of transactions and the costs of enforcement. This will create another state bureaucracy and all the hidden costs of employee salaries, benefits and pensions.

Third, although proponents claim that tolls will bring revenue to our transportation infrastructure, Connecticut will lose over $200 million in federal funding for transportation needs from returns on federal gasoline tax if tolls are installed as well as approximately $40 million from trucking fees based on mileage logs.

It is more than likely that a significant portion of the revenue eventually collected from tolls will be diverted from bridge and highway maintenance and used to expand mass transit projects.

Toll revenue goes into the general fund and as such it is also probable that much of this money will be not used for transportation costs or projects.

Finally, Connecticut residents will bear the brunt of the toll fees as a tax.

At least 70 percent of vehicles on Connecticut roads at any given time belong to Connecticut residents, so over 70 percent of revenue will be collected from Connecticut residents.

Congestion tolling is being actively pursued; this means that those traveling at peak traffic times, those traveling to and from work, will pay additional fees.

While our neighboring states have tolls on some roadways, it is nowhere near the extent of the proposed tolls here. Those toll rates are also far lower than what is being proposed for Connecticut.

Tell our representatives to cut the waste in the transportation department and the misappropriation of taxes already collected for road maintenance and infrastructure and to balance mass transit projects against the need to stabilize the economy.

Do not create further hardships for residents through tax increases in the form of tolls.

Mark Conrad lives in New Milford.

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6 Comments

  1. Sadly, there’s no stopping this now. The bell has sounded and Pavlov will be proven right again.

  2. Forcing more businesses and people and their families to flee one of the most expensive states in the country in which to do business (4th most expensive in 2018 https://taxfoundation.org/publications/state-business-tax-climate-index/).

    And who will build, administer and maintain the toll system? More state employees- who cannot be laid off.

    Only ones left in the state will be state employees, those “unwilling” to work (thanks @AOC) – who will be left to pay for it?

    And, nary a word about cutting expenses…Lamont won’t cross the unions – his employer.

  3. The Reason Foundation’s interpretation of administrative costs is wrong. The reason Connecticut’s is so high is that the state is in advanced planning and design for a great number of future projects under Governor Malloy’s $100 billion Let’s GO CT plan. This includes such massive projects as the reconstruction of I-84 in Hartford, the I-91 Interchange 29 reconstruction, the New Haven/Hartford/Springfield rail line, the New Haven Railyard reconstruction, the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, the widening of I-84 in Danbury and Waterbury. These represent billions of dollars in construction in the future. By planning and designing these projects now, they will be ready to go to construction quickly when funding becomes available. This is not waste. This is smart advanced planning that prepares the state for much needed transportation improvements.

    I also must question Mr. Conrad’s contention that tolls are not needed. Does he feel that we do not have the need these projects? Does he feel that improvements are not needed on I-95, I-84 or I-91? Does he feel that the current bandaid approach is adequate? Without additional funding our transportation system how does anyone expect these improvements to be built. The gas tax has not been increased in 20 years. What that money bought back then buys a lot less today than it did back then.

    Me Conrad should also know that the Federal Highway Administration has already given the state permission to use tolling on I-95 and I-84 and is relaxing their policies in light of the massive needs states face. That is why Rhode Island has been able to install truck tolls on its highways. Tolls gives the state a way to tap revenue from out of state drivers that currently pay little or nothing to use our roads. We can no longer afford to allow this especially when you consider we are the only state on the east coast that does not have tolls.

  4. One small part of the solution should be a “Tesla Tax” so that electric vehicles contribute to the cost of road maintenance, since they don’t pay a gasoline tax, which is the primary funding source for roads.

  5. It seems to me this is hastily done commentary. For instance, why are administrative costs so high in CT? The author accepts the Reason Foundation analysis at face value; he does not take the time to dig into the weeds a little to demonstrate that this is a solid analysis and that is something that can be addressed in a meaningful way. This is crucial, as his argument is basically that we have an inefficient, costly bureaucracy in the CTDoT, and thus should not have tolls. What if that isn’t true? And exactly why does CT lose federal dollars if it implements tolls, as well as a share of fees from trucks based on mileage logs? This may be a crucial consideration, but again the author doesn’t take the time to develop his assessment. The author raises several critical questions about the efficacy of tolling–but fails to address them with the detail that they deserve.

  6. On further reflection, it is worth noting that 1) the author is opposed, apparently, to public transportation, as he objects to using money from tolls to support better train and bus service. But isn’t that precisely what we need to reduce congestion, environmental impacts, and improve connectivity? 2) the author assumes the “worst case” scenario, where CT drivers get no break on their tolls, as well as apparently overstating the share CT drivers who pay. The available study projects that out-of-state drivers (cars and trucks) would pay about 40% of the tolls, BEFORE any reductions afforded in-state drivers. It would take only a modest adjustment for the share paid by in-state drivers to fall below 50%. Given the scale of the challenges CT faces in rebuilding its decayed infrastructure, is the author really prepared to have CT “go it alone” in paying for that rebuilding? Especially given the reality that a prime beneficiary of such an investment will be out-of-state drivers? Why does he think CT taxpayers should subsidize those drivers? He doesn’t say.

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