State ‘Transportation Fund’ running out of gas

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — State lawmakers heard the disturbing news Friday that receipts from the ‘Gas Tax‘ are declining so fast that the state’s Transportation Fund, the one that pays for all transportation projects and upkeep, will be in deficit in two years. In other words, the state will run out of gas.

“Within four or five years we’re going to have to look for a total new source of revenue,” said Rep. Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill) the co-chair of the Transportation Committee.

Lawmakers have now also been informed by the Federal Highway Administration that there is no danger of the state losing federal highway funds if it decides to institute tolls. It’s giving more ammunition to advocates for Electronic Highway Tolling who believe it is a better way to pay for transportation maintenance and improvements.

The head of the Massachusetts D.O.T., which recently instituted Electronic Tolling, says they have found a way to give their residents a lower toll charge than out-of-staters passing through.

“If you have a ‘Transponder’ that is issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts you pay the lowest rate. If you have a ‘Transponder’ issued from another state, the rate is different,” said Tim Tinlin, Highway Administrator for MassDOT.

And if you live in Connecticut, but work in Massachusetts they’ll give you a ‘Transponder’ free and you also get the discounted rate.

The system being advocated the most would make it no more of an inconvenience to motorists than driving under the highway signs that stretch across the Interstates all across the state.

“Every other state has tolling, thirty percent of the revenue comes from out of state residents with the new Electronic Tolling systems in place it’s really invisible to the traveler so I think it has to be on the table,” said former New Haven State Rep. Cam Staples, who chaired the Governor’s Transportation Funding Panel.

So besides having discounted rates for Connecticut residents and gradually reducing the Gas Tax to soften the blow many lawmakers remain opposed.

“Even if you reduce the percentage, it’s still an increase no matter how you reduce it and it’s still no guarantee that they aren’t going to siphon it off and use it to balance the budget,” said Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) a co-chair of the Transportation Committee.

The Transportation Committee must vote up or down on a tolling bill by the end of next month, but one of the co-chairs said Friday that because they have so many bills on their agenda, they may try to move this one sooner.

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