Dedicated tolls

Tolls will be necessary to meet Connecticut's long-term highway transportation needs. Recognizing that, we welcome the 23-12 vote by the General Assembly's Transportation Committee backing a bill that would allow tolls specifically targeted to raise revenues for new highways or extensions.

Of greater interest is the effort by Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, committee co-chairman, to allow electronic tolling generally as a way of raising revenues to maintain and improve state highways. That proposal remains in committee.

The bill approved by the committee now moves to the House of Representatives. It is of interest in southeastern Connecticut because revenues from tolls could help pay for the long-stalled Route 11 pro-ject. The project would take Route 11 from its current terminus in Salem and tie it in to the Interstates 95/395 interchange in Waterford, offering easier access between southeastern Connecticut and the Hartford region.

The problem is the $1-billion price tag for the environmentally sensitive plan. While not yet ready to endorse the use of tolls to raise money for Route 11, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he is willing to consider it.

But completing Route 11 is just one among many state highway needs, including, in this region, widening Interstate 95 from the current two lanes. Most other states in the Northeast already use tolls to help pay for highways. Connecticut should do the same. Any legislation to install electronic E-ZPass tolls should require that revenues go into a dedicated fund for transportation expenses only.

Tolls are a better choice in the long term than continued hikes in the gas tax, now 45.2 cents per gallon in Connecticut, fourth highest in the nation. Gas-tax revenues will drop as vehicle mileage improves. Also, everyone using a highway pays a toll, but only those who get gas in Connecticut pay the gas tax, meaning largely state residents.

Implementing tolls would take years of study and planning. The state should begin.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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