A New Year, A New Debate Over Highway Tolls

Jan 29, 2018

Highway tolls are once again at the top of the agenda for Connecticut lawmakers. Those in support of the move held a news conference in Hartford on Monday to push for electronic tolls on the state’s highways.

Representative Tony Guerrera, a Newington Democrat and the House chair of the Transportation Committee, announced he’s reintroducing a bill for electronic highway tolls that failed to win approval in the House last year.

Guerrera said the tolls are needed because the state’s Highway Trust Fund is running out of money. “If we don’t have the funding we are going to have to decrease the times for our rails. Increase rail fees, increase bus fees, there is no better time to do this.”

Tolls were removed from Connecticut highways more than 30 years ago after a series of fatal accidents. Guerrera said electronic tolls reduce such concerns.

“There is no safety issue when it comes to electronic tolling. Throughout the whole Northeast corridor, everyone is doing it. Through the Midwest, they are doing it. ”

Meanwhile, Governor Malloy said he has a plan to restore money to the state’s transportation fund. Malloy said lawmakers need to find more than $1.5 billion worth of new revenue a year to keep the transportation fund solvent for the next five years.

Malloy’s plan includes tolls on state highways by 2023, gradually raising the gas tax by 7 cents, and adding a $3 fee on every new tire purchase. He said this would prevent spikes in rail and bus fares.

The governor said that his plan is about more than raising money though.

“It’s about making sure commuters can get to work, not just sit in traffic jams. And most importantly, it’s about keeping travelers safe and making sure lives aren’t at risk because of a deficient structural element.”

The state had to cancel crucial road work earlier this year. Malloy said his plan would restore those projects.

“With each day that passes, Connecticut falls further and further behind on critical projects that have been put on hold, moving our transportation further from a state of good repair. The time is now. We must take decisive action quickly.”

Malloy will formally present his budget plan to the General Assembly next week. He asks lawmakers to act soon before projects fall behind.

At the same time, the state is facing huge budget deficits.