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Chamber recognizes tolls needed to keep Connecticut's economy rolling

A spirited public debate is underway over whether Connecticut should reinstitute highway tolls as a means of funding much-needed improvements to our aging transportation infrastructure. Good people on both sides of the issue are passionate about their position and rightfully so. That is how our democracy works best.

There seems to be little disagreement that the state must upgrade our transportation system. The question is, how to pay for it. More bonding or tolls? Plans call for toll gantries along Interstates 95, 91 and 84. I-395 would be exempt.

Research indicates that electronic toll systems, operational in all our surrounding states and, nationally, in all but 15 states, provide a cost-effective and safe method for upgrading and maintaining transportation systems. If tolls are installed in Connecticut they are expected to raise $800 million annually, a healthy chunk, with approximately 40 percent comming from out-of-state vehicles passing through.

Tolls is a pay-as-you-go system. Bonding, on the other hand, would pass the buck for improvements on to our children and grandchildren.

Earlier this year, the chamber’s legislative affairs committee developed a comprehensive set of legislative goals for this year’s General Assembly session, including support for a state-of-the-art toll system with carve outs for Connecticut residents. This takes into account the fact that we have a state constitutional transportation lockbox to ensure that money raised on the highways will be used to keep them in tip-top shape.

Reasonable people agree that we must do something about our roadways. For some time it has been abundantly clear to anyone who has been stuck in traffic for hours on I-95 that improvements are needed to keep the traffic flowing. Additionally, business owners who depend on the timely delivery of materials to keep them in operation and their employees on the job, also can speak to the importance of a well-functioning transportation system.

The argument for using tolls to invest in a modern, well-maintained transportation system can be boiled down to two words: commerce and tourism. Highway congestion and roads in need of repair are impediments to a healthy economy. If visitors, employees or delivery vehicles are sitting for hours in highway traffic, they are not likely to return to the state, or expand or grow their companies.

Each year the chamber looks seriously at legislative measures that are designed to improve the business climate and benefit the public. After much consideration, we concluded that the need for a highway toll system with 21st century technology, coupled with the transportation lockbox and carve outs for Connecticut residents, would well serve our state far into the future.

Tony Sheridan is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and chairman of the Connecticut Airport Authority Board of Directors.



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