Local businesses speak out against highway tolls

(WTNH / Josh Scheinblum)

DANBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Rush hour on Connecticut’s roads can be a traffic nightmare, but for businesses along the state’s borders, drivers are their life blood. Simply put, cars mean customers.

“If they’re not coming here we’re going to take a hit,” said Travis Humiston, manager of Danbury Square Wine and Liquor.

Some state lawmakers are now discussing bringing highway tolls back, which they hope could provide the government with billions in funding; however, it’s an idea that’s already meeting resistance from those who live in some towns along the border. One vocal critic against the idea is Stephen Bull, President and CEO of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce. Bull says tolls will have an adverse impact on their local economy, especially when it comes to places like the Danbury Fair Mall.

“On any given Saturday, between 40- and 50-percent of the people you see in this parking lot we’re standing in right now are from New York,” said Bull. “You want to give New Yorkers a reason right down the road here a reason not come to Connecticut, not to spend their money, and not to remit those sales tax revenues to Hartford, put a toll there.”

Bull is not alone in his beliefs, some managers of local businesses are also concerned.

“As far as local businesses go, I think it would be a pretty bad idea,” said Humiston. “I mean, it might be good for the state, but not for the people.”

The concerns of border communities aren’t just economic. Some also argue the tolls could put an unfair burden on local taxpayers should drivers try to avoid tolls and head out on secondary roads. One bill, however, would provide them with a tax credit.

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