Norwich City Council votes 4-3 to oppose tolls on Norwich highways

Norwich – The City Council voted 4-3 along party lines Monday to oppose any proposal by the state to install tolls on state roads in the city even though no current plan calls for tolls along Interstate 395 or Route 2, the two divided highways that run through the city.

Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom, a former state representative, proposed the resolution, which said Norwich “hereby declares its opposition to the current proposal for the implementation of tolls on Connecticut highways within the geographic confines of the City of Norwich.”

Nystrom said he did not trust that toll proposals would stop at the current proposed Interstates 95, 91, 84 and Route 15, as reported in an Associated Press story last week. Nystrom said if tolls are placed on Route 2 or on I-395, travelers would look to avoid the highways by driving through the city, clogging its streets and hampering emergency vehicles.

The council’s three other Republicans agreed and said it didn’t matter that the current proposals don’t include I-395 and Route 2, the resolution would alert the governor “up front,” as Alderwoman Joanne Philbrick said, that the city is opposed to tolls as a new tax. Alderwoman Stacy Gould said she didn’t trust state government to reserve the toll funding for road construction, pointing that other dedicated funds have been raided over the years.

“Gov. (Ned) Lamont has no clue what working people do,” Philbrick said.

The council’s three Democrats said the resolution is premature, and the city should delay taking a stance until the proposals are firm. Alderwoman Stephanie Burnham said she has read the proposed bills do not include I-395 and Route 2, and Nystrom’s other arguments – against a proposed quasi-public transit authority, for example, are not included in his proposed resolution.

During public comment on the resolution, aldermen heard mixed reactions to the resolution and to proposals to use future tolls to fund much-needed roadwork across the state.

Resident Marvin Serruto said every town in Connecticut should pass a similar resolution to oppose tolls – several cities and towns have done so. Serruto said proposals at the state level keep changing and it’s unsure where the tolls would end up. He also complained that Lamont said earlier Monday that electronic passes for Connecticut residents would be handled by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Need I say more,” Serruto said, referring to the long-troubled reputation of the DMV.

Resident Rodney Bowie agreed that putting tolls on Route 2 and I-395 could bring more traffic to the city. He said he always looks for ways to avoid interstate tolls when traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

But resident Linda Theodoru said the resolution would make it sound like all Norwich residents are against the tolls and said it would make it look like all Norwich residents support “the misinformation about tolls” being discussed. Theodoru said bonding for future roadwork would put off the costs to Connecticut’s children and grandchildren.

"You do not speak for a majority of Norwich residents,” she said. “This resolution must not be passed.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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