Massachusetts bills would tap tolls to boost road funds

| 9/21/2009

A Massachusetts legislative panel recently took up for consideration nearly a dozen bills related to road tolls.

Among the tolling measures reviewed by the Joint Committee on Transportation were bills that are intended to help give the state’s transportation system a shot in the arm. Massachusetts is in need of up to $20 billion during the next 20 years to close the transportation funding gap.

Multiple bills brought up for discussion addressed setting up tolls at the New Hampshire border. One bill – H3184 – from Rep. Stephen Canessa, D-Lakeville, would charge visitors coming in on Interstate 93 in Methuen and on Interstate 95 in Salisbury. Toll booths would be placed after the last Massachusetts exit ramp before the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, on both interstates.

Two more bills – H3238 and H3239 – would add toll booths at the New Hampshire line along each of the major access roads, routes 93, 95, 495 and 3. Booths would be placed before the first Massachusetts exit ramp past the border, of each highway.

Amounts were not specified in any of the bills.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Clif Wolfe of Sandwich, MA, said charging highway users to travel roads already built is double taxation. But he wouldn’t be surprised to see lawmakers approve a border toll effort.

“New Hampshire charges tolls for everybody going north or south at that border. Massachusetts figures they’re not getting anything but New Hampshire is getting it, so why not,” Wolfe told Land Line.

While he wants no part of tolls on Massachusetts roadways, Wolfe said it would be vital to ensure that toll revenue be used solely on the highway where it was collected.

While his border toll bill would make the state money, another effort from Canessa is intended to save the state some money. The measure – H1151 – calls for a study on replacing the existing toll collection system with an automated alternative.

Supporters say the switch would save in operating costs, relieve congestion at toll booths and reduce engine idling.

If approved, the Executive Office of Transportation will work with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to carry out an automated toll collection review. The objective would be to study the benefits and challenges of operating a fully-automated toll collection system on all of the state’s toll roads.

The findings and recommendations would be presented to the Joint Transportation Committee within three months of its implementation.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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