Connecticut lawmakers to review highway tolling proposals
HARTFORD — The leading proponent in the Connecticut General Assembly for installing tolls on Connecticut highways predicted Tuesday that lawmakers may pass legislation this year that begins the process of creating an electronic system.
Democratic Rep. Democratic Rep. Antonio "Tony" Guerrera of Rocky Hill, the House chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee, said many lawmakers realize tolls are probably needed for revenue but that some key questions remain.
"I think a lot of people still want to know how much each gantry is going to cost, where they're going to be," he said.
Guerrera said he'd like to see the General Assembly pass legislation this session that directs the Department of Transportation commissioner to review the various steps needed to implement electronic highway tolls, including any necessary federal approvals, how many gantries might be needed and how much tolls could cost, and then come up with a plan for a tolling system.
The Transportation Committee has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday. The bill that Guerrera supports would requires the DOT commissioner to come up with a tolling plan for the legislature to consider.
If approved, Guerrera envisions electronic tolls initially on Interstates 95, 91 and 84. Once those are in place, he said the state might be able to reduce the state's gas tax to give motorists a financial break.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has also submitted legislation that would implement tolling by fiscal year 2023. It is part of a wide-ranging proposal to shore up Connecticut's main transportation account, which is soon projected to be in deficit. Besides tolls, Malloy has proposed a seven-cent gas tax increase spread out across four years, a $3 per fee on tire purchases, and the transfer of sales tax revenues from car sales from the general fund to the transportation account for fiscal year 2019.
"Without new revenues this year, we face a transportation cliff. We will be forced to make draconian cutbacks, affecting even routine maintenance," said Malloy, whose administration recently suspended $4.3 billion in projects affecting every community in Connecticut.
There continues to be resistance to implementing tolls, however. The legislature's Conservative Caucus opposes the concept, arguing the state already has one of the highest gas taxes in the country; the tolling infrastructure could cost hundreds of millions of dollars; and the system could take two-to-three years to install. The group has also argued that 70 percent of the toll revenues would be paid by Connecticut residents.
"This is just another way for the state to suck more and more money out of your wallet. Gas tax money is supposed to pay for our transportation infrastructure needs, but the governor and the Democrats keep diverting that money to fund their irresponsible spending addiction," said Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a Republican from Chaplin. "No matter how much new money they take from the people of this state, it will never be enough if they won't put transportation money toward transportation."
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