Big hearing on electronic tolls to be held next month

- FILE - Connecticut highway traffic (WTNH)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–There is almost universal agreement at the state and local level that the state’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. But the idea of imposing ‘electronic highway tolls’ to pay for it is running into a huge legislative traffic jam.

The Governor says state lawmakers must pass the so-called ‘lock box’ amendment to make sure all the money raised for transportation goes to transportation. But getting from ‘here to there’ is proving a tough journey.

Members of the legislature’s Transportation Committee have about a hundred proposed laws before them. From increasing fines for texting while driving and online license renewals, to imposing those controversial electronic tolls on the interstate highways. Because the tolling is so controversial and there are so many plans, the committee has decided to have one big hearing next month
just on the tolling question.

Shoreline State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. (D-Branford) says the time is right to talk about tolls. “We have millions of cars whizzing through Connecticut on a daily basis who don’t pay anything in terms of our upkeep for our roads,” he said.

One suggestion would place about 20 of these electronic tolling gantries on Interstate 95 between New Haven and the New York border so it would be almost impossible to drive around the tolls.

And Kennedy has authored a plan to impose what’s called ‘Congestion Pricing,’ saying, “During peak travel times the tolls would be higher.”

It is conceived as a way to decrease congestion on the interstates during peak travel times. Opponents see it as just an increased expense on the little guy.

“Guess who has to pay that? Not the CEO that can come and go when they want in a business around the congestion pricing time, but the person that has to show up at eight or eighty-thirty or nine o’clock,” said Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton).

Another idea would be to put so called ‘border tolls’ where the interstates start at the New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts border. This is a non-starter for lawmakers from the border areas.

“No one wants to do this from a border town perspective, of which I sit, so if it’s just border town issue then, obviously I wouldn’t support that,” said Sen. Carlo Leone (D-Stamford).

In another idea, the gas tax would be gradually reduced as the electronic tolls were imposed. Added Boucher, “Do we believe that in this state? How much credibility does the public have that we’re going to phase away a tax?”

And Senator Boucher is correct; the legislature does not have a good track record on promises to roll back taxes; like the income tax, the inheritance tax, the real estate conveyance tax, and the 20 percent surcharge on the business tax.  

All of these taxes were said to ‘temporary’ when they were passed.  So far, they have not.

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