Flawed op-ed was really about politics, not tolls

I pound my keyboard today in response to a recent op-ed by Groton Republican Town Chair John Scott, in which he took Groton Democrats to task for refusing to oppose the imposition of tolls in Connecticut.

It is clear that Scott does not really want the Democratic legislative bodies to oppose tolls. He wants to gin up a political issue to use in the fall elections. The Day made note of this Republican tendency in its own editorial endorsing tolls, when it opined that Democrats would have to bear the burden of implementing this commonsense reform, since Republicans would no doubt want to take what political advantage they could from opposing it.

If Scott really had some rational principled objection to the use of tolls to pay for our roads, he could have set it forth, along with an alternative way of solving the problem.

First, let's look at the facts, which not even Scott can deny. So long as we use automobiles and trucks for transportation, we will need roads. Roads need to be built and maintained. As vehicles become more fuel efficient and electric cars become more numerous — both good things — gas tax receipts will go down. Most other states impose tolls, meaning we pay for their road upkeep when we go there, but they get a free ride here. Tolls address that disparity.

Scott’s major argument against tolls is his claim that drivers on 1-95 will avoid tolls by using their GPS systems and using Route 1 instead. Really, that’s the best he can do? This only works for any given driver if no one else does it. At times, interstate traffic has been rerouted to Route 1 in Groton. The resultant traffic is a nightmare, to which no rational person would submit in order to save a few bucks. Strategically placed tolls would reduce or eliminate this dire threat in any event. Most cars, for instance, can’t swim, so it would be difficult for a southbound driver on 95 to cross the Thames if the tolls were on the bridge. Presumably, Scott would agree that a driver is unlikely to take Route 12 to Norwich and return down Route 32 to New London to save the price of a toll. This is exactly the sort of thing the much derided (by Republicans) toll study is meant to anticipate and minimize.

Scott cannot seriously think that a significant number of people will waste their time crawling on back roads (especially the already crowded Route 1) in order to save a few dollars. It doesn’t happen elsewhere, and it won’t happen here.

Finally, Scott drags out the all-purpose threat of “socialism” to make, in a rather muddled way, either a generic attack on Democrats, or a claim that tolls are somehow a harbinger or symptom of socialism. “Socialism” is now an all-purpose pejorative, trotted out by Republicans to oppose any Democratic initiative. The word has been drained of all meaning. It’s sort of like the bogeyman. No one knows what anyone means by it, but everyone’s supposed to be scared. Suffice to say that actual socialists would be hard pressed to figure out how tolls, common in red and blue states alike, advance their agenda of world domination, or whatever it is that Scott fears from the socialist bogeyman.

Scott’s paper-thin arguments against tolls do nothing but reveal his true agenda: exploiting a problem about which his party refuses to join in finding a solution.

John Wirzbicki is the treasurer of the Groton Democratic Town Committee and was asked to author the committee’s response to the John Scott op-ed.



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