Too many questions surround toll initiative
Before they impose tolls on us Connecticut peasants, I’d like to ask a few questions of the current Hartford ruling class.
What exactly is the infrastructure plan? The governor and the legislature each seem to have a half dozen or so ideas on how and where to implement the tolls, but when pressed on what their intentions are with the potential billion or so dollars per year of extra revenue collected, the answers are often inadequate. Are we looking at new interstate highways? Are you adding lanes? Are you fixing bridges? How much of it goes to rail? What about ports? How much are you planning on spending and over what time frame?
We deserve a detailed plan. The idea that they want our money but will let us know later how it’ll be used, is unacceptable.
Just for fun, I grabbed my trusty calculator and did a quick equation. If we decide to go with the plan to spend $100 billion in toll revenue over 30 years, be aware that, for the same amount of money, we could buy 4,811,387 pounds of gold (not using Troy Ounces). So, quite literally, we could pave our roads with gold! This leads me to my second big question.
Why does it cost so much to build and maintain roads in Connecticut?
According to a Reason Foundation study, which was also picked up by the Yankee Institute, Connecticut spends $99,417 per mile of road in administrative costs, the highest administrative cost in the country. The Nutmeg state pays nine times more per mile than the average. Before the state puts the squeeze on Connecticut taxpayers with tolls, can someone in Hartford figure how to reduce construction costs per mile?
How much property does the state own? During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, GOP candidate Mark Boughton once mentioned to me that we have tens of billions of dollars’ worth of Connecticut real estate we could sell: Offices not being used; empty buildings; giant parcels of land occupying space with zero net gain. If we part with those buildings and/or the land and collect that revenue, those pieces of property immediately go on Connecticut tax rolls. This is a win-win – and yet nobody ever talks about this. Why?
What assurances can the state give us that 40 percent of the toll money will come, as they’ve suggested, from out-of-state drivers? This 40 percent number has been thrown out a lot lately -- and it looks to me like a flat-out guess. How does the state intend on collecting the money from out-of-state vehicles? Ask them politely? Send them a bill in the mail? Get Tony Soprano to make them an offer they can’t refuse?
There is no current mechanism to compel the payment of money from people from another state if those individuals don’t have EZ-Pass. Connecticut residents owe over $20 million to Massachusetts in unpaid tolls. Is Connecticut going to offer up its state’s residents, hold them hostage, and force them to fork over that out-of-state toll money so Governor Lamont and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker can make a side deal? What about the other states in New England or across the country? How will this work?
Has anyone in Hartford ever even considered the law of unintended consequences? Every product transported to and through Connecticut will go up in price. Tourism suffers, local business suffers and, in short, the little guy suffers.
A cluster of final questions: What guarantees can we be given that $1 billion a year will be enough? History has taught us it’s never enough! How long before the toll fee is raised? The plan might be 4 cents per mile to start, but what's to stop the governor and the legislature from moving it to 6 cents per mile or 8 cents? What about congestion pricing? How is this factored in? Will my price per mile double, triple, or quadruple during peak drive times? Is the administration simply assuming some of these numbers are accurate or will be enough?
And really, why should we trust the elected leaders who failed to maintain the roads, and who allowed it to become so expensive to do so, to drive all of us down this toll road of financial ruin?
Haven’t they failed enough already?
Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.
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