Connecticut governor retreats from stance on truck-only tolls

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 2/18/2019

In an op-ed published in the Connecticut Post on Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont appears to be backing down on his stance on truck-only tolling. Lamont explained that even if the truck-only toll gets passed the courts, the option would provide “too little revenue.”

After looking further into the toll option to fund infrastructure projects, Lamont said he has discovered that perhaps tolling only trucks is not such a good idea. Lamont shared this revelation in an op-ed he penned for the Connecticut Post published on Saturday, Feb. 16.

Lamont said he initially supported a truck-only toll like the one installed in Rhode Island as he was learning about the issue. The governor admitted that this would generate just enough to maintain infrastructure but not enough for upgrades. After getting advice from his attorneys, Lamont suggests a truck-only toll is likely not the most feasible idea.

“While we are awaiting a ruling from the courts regarding truck-only tolling, our attorneys are pretty certain that if permitted, the tolling could only be done on specific bridges and the generated revenue would be reserved for those bridges, not for congestion pricing,” Lamont explained. “Assuming our attorneys are correct, the truck-only option provides too little revenue, too slowly and too piecemeal to make a meaningful difference.”

Lamont campaigned on tolling only heavy vehicles, defeating his Republican opponent Bob Stefanowski by only 3.2 percentage points. Incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy did not seek a third term.

“No Tolls CT doesn’t support tolling anyone,” said Patrick Sasser, head of the grassroots organization No Tolls CT, “but this is a stunning affront to the voters of this state. Lamont said numerous times that he would only support tolls on trucks and now that campaign promise looks like it will be broken.”

The backpedaling by Lamont is more in line with a report released by the Connecticut Department of Transportation in November. CTDOT’s reported proposed all-electronic tolls on all vehicle types, which could generate nearly $1 billion each year.

If CTDOT’s report is adopted by lawmakers, trucks will be tolled four times the rate of passenger vehicles. Accounting for tolls on other vehicles, the CTDOT study calculates truck tolls at 17.6 cents per mile for Connecticut E-ZPass truckers and 25.2 cents for out-of-state E-ZPass users during off-peak hours. During peak hours, the rate increases to 22 cents per mile for Connecticut truckers and 31.6 cents for out-of-state E-ZPass truckers.

CT toll chart

In his op-ed, Lamont said he would consider the option of a more inclusive toll only if the state “maximized the discount for Connecticut EZ-Pass users and/or offered a ‘frequent driver’ discount for those who are required to travel our major roadways on a frequent basis.”

Virginia considered a similar option before scrapping toll language in both the House and Senate bills altogether. Originally, Virginia lawmakers proposed a toll on all users. However, frequent users had the option of buying an “annual pass” for unlimited use of Interstate 81. After fierce opposition, Virginia lawmakers revised the bills that excluded any specific financing proposals. Instead, the revised bills are asking for more studies and input before deciding on a funding mechanism for I-81 improvements.

Lamont estimated that 50 percent of tolling revenue would come from out-of-state drivers. The governor also will consider an increase in the earned income tax credit or a reduction in the fuel tax to offset the costs of tolling on frequent users.

The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates is opposed to any proposal that includes any kind of toll.

“The congestion pricing tolls proposed by Gov. Lamont will, by design, move more vehicles onto secondary roads and disrupt the lives of residents statewide,” ATFI spokeswoman Stephanie Kane told Land Line. “We urge the Connecticut General Assembly to reject tolls as a road funding option this legislative session. We need to make it easier for businesses to succeed, not harder.”

On Wednesday, Lamont will submit his budget that will include both options: a truck-only toll and a more inclusive toll of all vehicles.

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