In this time of partisan gridlock, here is something that will shock you: I am a Republican and I am in full support of tolls in the state of Connecticut.

I will admit, it took some time before I came around to the idea, but I owe my newfound avocation for tolls to the CEO of a leading publicly traded heavy-side building materials company (a client of mine).

For the duration of our relationship (four years and counting), the CEO has been lobbying for tolls/an increase in gas tax as vital ways to help replace and revitalize our state’s aging infrastructure (rated a “C-” by the American Society of Civil Engineers). While true, Connecticut has the seventh highest gasoline tax rate in the country, we have not seen an increase in six years, and one doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

I understand we live in one of the highest tax states in the country and asking our residents, many of whom cannot afford a tax increase (to offset the cost, perhaps provide a state tax credit to those whose incomes fall below a certain level), to pay more is widely unpopular (and is a big part of why the governor’s approval rating is falling faster than the rate at which the President tweets). But studies show that people are far more willing to pay for something that offers them a better, more efficient experience.

The reason the consensus for tolls hasn’t gained traction is because the Lamont administration has not done a good job of explaining/showing how tolls will greatly improve the user experience. (Years of misuse by prior administrations as it relates to transportation funds also haven’t helped). Instead, the governor has spent more time his first year in office playing defense on the tolls issue rather than offense. (Heck, if he was a  defensive back on the UConn football team, he’d be the first lockdown corner we’ve had since the graduation of Obi Melifonwu).

Instead of repeatedly touting the many ways tolls could be used to improve the user experience—less congestion, less time in traffic, smoother surfaces, wider lanes to name a few —  Lamont has challenged the opposition to come up with its own ideas and has failed time and time again to stick by his original proposal. I became supportive of tolls in this state after hearing the CEO advocate for them over and over and never wavering despite the expected blowback. Over time, it became impossible to ignore the benefits that a steady and reliable user fee would have on the improvement of the driver (and passenger) experience now and well into the future.

Now is the time to make this happen. Let’s face it, the system in place isn’t working. Our pension system is chronically underfunded and it will be for a while. As a result, our roadways will continue to be neglected unless we take this on ourselves. The only way for us to improve the experience on our roadways is to pay for it, with a little help from our friends in New York and Massachusetts, who have enjoyed the free rides for way too long.

Matthew Chudoba is an account director at a Norwalk-based PR firm where he is on the company’s real estate team. 

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16 Comments

  1. Assuming State government pushes tolls through, they should not be built unless and until ‘Hartford’ stops raiding the misnomered lockbox. Creating a ‘crisis’ of funding by taking away the new car sales tax receipts for the General Fund is just more of the same CT political shenanigans we’ve been seeing for decades.

    Also, there shouldn’t be any ‘adjustment’ for CT low-income highway users. Do their cars cause less damage to the State roads? What’s next, charging based on the age of the vehicle to ‘persuade’ people to buy newer vehicles and pay higher sales and property taxes? Then, doing that, raise the gas tax because less fuel will be used?

  2. “Prior administrations”? What about Lamont diverting $171 million out of the STF into the General Fund for pensions??
    What about the lack of governmental transparency this administration seems to relish in?
    Respectfully sir, it’s about trust in government to administrate toll revenue and past history in Connecticut government shows that any revenue stream ends up in the General Fund for pensions and not for its intended use.

  3. Here we go again. Another “biased” opinion, hiding behind the claim of being a “Republican”. I must once again share my opinion, because I have no bias due to financial reward or act of being foolish enough to be blinded by party dogma. Before even considering tolls, our legislators must do three things. First, move DOT and State Police labor costs out of the STF(Special Transportation Fund). Next, restore the inclusion of all sales and excise taxes that have previously been redirected from the STF. And finally, wait to determine and understand the level of transportation funding that will come from the Federal Government. We don’t need tolls, we need the “truth”!

  4. You state for tolls we will get less congestion. Less time in traffic. Wider lanes. I have the following samples below that will prove contrary to that.
    1 mass pike. Go to boston at 730am
    2 ny thruway rockland county 730am
    3 pa turnpike blue bell pa 730am
    4 garden state pkwy 730am
    5 nj turnpike 730am
    6 i95 baltimore 730am
    7 I66 Arlington/Alexandria 730am

    Tolls don’t make the road any different or easier to drive. If you really want less traffice and congestion. You have to change the work week. In any given metro area. 1/3 of all businesses start 630 end 330. 1/3 start at 8am end 5pm. 1/3 start at 930 end 630. If you spaced out when people drive times are. You can space out the roads make them safer and all the expansion may not even be needed in the first place. Maybe if we just governed better instead of always juat looking for the money first is best idea.

  5. Seriously, your solution is to raise even more taxes on hard working people because you think “the system in place isn’t working”! Isn’t that what we have been doing for decades? Instead, why not prioritize current spending and take 10% away from the general fund (creates about $2 Billion a year) that we could use on infrastructure without raising taxes.

  6. I Agree with Yankfan, 171 MM diverted from STF to pensions by this administration? All the while, giving raises to prosecutors of 11% and raises to State Police, and state OT through the roof! This all increases the pension shortfall. And we are supposed to work even harder to pay tolls to provide luxurious retirements to the CT elites, namely retired CT state employees/Florida beach bums? The other elites in Greenwich want these tolls for some reason. Take a hike Lamont!

    1. Those Greenwich and lower Fairfield Cty people want tolls for their train rides to & from Manhattan. For confirmation, watch the video of tonight’s meeting in New Caanan. It’s on the NoTollsCt Facebook page.

  7. I completely agree with Matthew Chudoba. It’s too bad that it’s news that he is a Republican. This should be a non-partisan issue. If you are for growth in CT and keeping us fiscally healthy, you should be for at least some tolls, along with other measures that help our State compete.

    1. Ms. Berritt, Please tell us if tolls are installed all over I-95 and the Merritt Parkway which of them will you pass under on your commute to and from work?

  8. “I owe my newfound avocation for tolls to the CEO of a leading publicly traded heavy-side building materials company (a client of mine).”

    In other words, this CEO oversees a company likely to prosper from big infrastructure projects so the CEO couldn’t care less from where the road building money originates (tolls and/or gas tax increase) because ultimately the “heavy-side building materials company” stands to gain considerably. Got it.

    1. Many, but not all, toll advocates are those who will gain financially or those for whom toll payments would be a non-issue because of their personal finances or their location. These factors appear repeatedly.

      1. Until CT is willing to bite the bullet and enact real reforms (e.g. renegotiate union agreements, increase fees for rail use – no entity makes money moving people on rail – require cities & localities to pony up more money for their transit programs as opposed to the state DOT paying the lion’s share for local transit programs, create a user fee for electric vehicles, pull the state police & pension obligations out of the transportation fund and finally truly dedicate all fuel tax and registration fees to roads & bridges. The collection costs associated with tolls run roughly 25% meaning states/cities only bring in .75 cents on the dollar vs .99 cents on the dollar collected via fuel taxes. And that doesn’t get into the tens of millions of dollars needed to invest in the attorneys, consultants, and tolling technologies (which constantly require upgrades) to get tolls up and running. It generally takes 5-7 years before any type of profit will be seen from tolls so the idea that tolls will lead to increased revenue immediately is incorrect. The only way states see money right away is by bonding against future toll receipts…which is exactly what Gov Lamont says the state will no longer do.

      2. The initial and on-going overhead expenses of tolling systems are huge, making them very inefficient taxing systems. Compare that to the minimal overhead costs of the Passport to Parks tax on vehicle registrations and the Healthy Homes fund tax on homeowners insurance policies. The latter even off-loads collection costs to private insurance companies.

  9. This PR person thinks the reason is because the Lamont administration hasn’t sold tolls well enough. Then why has it failed every time for TEN years? It’s been opposed in Ct. since 2009 as shown in Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac polling since then. The problem isn’t explaining or selling it. We understand it very well and know it’s a bad idea for many reasons. That’s why it’s failed every time since 2009.

    “Years of misuse by prior administrations as it relates to transportation funds also haven’t helped”
    That’s true, but ignores documented misuse by the current administration.

    “I owe my newfound avocation for tolls to the CEO of a leading publicly traded heavy-side building materials”
    Of course you do. The CEO has a financial interest in getting driving taxes pushed upon Ct’s driving citizens. As your PR client, that CEO is probably pleased with your stance and Viewpoint article.

  10. If you’ve driven on roads in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, all of which have tolls, you’ll notice that their roads and bridges are not in any better shape than Connecticut’s. I84 in Connecticut is far better than I84 in New York.

    Just another money grab for state employee unions and their out of market, out of control benefits and pensions.

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