Massachusetts lawmakers search for alternatives to toll hike

| Friday, May 31, 2002

Boston-area lawmakers are pushing legislation that assures a toll freeze along the Massachusetts Turnpike, saying east-west commuters will bear a disproportionate cost for the July 1 planned toll hike. Turnpike officials told the joint Committee on Transportation this past week they would scour the group's finances to weigh alternatives.

Tolls are set to increase on the turnpike (I-90) within weeks to pay off a portion of the bonds for the $14.6 billion "Big Dig" construction project. The project will allow vehicles to travel through Boston's downtown area via an underground tunnel system.

Local lawmakers have said they will fight tooth and nail to keep tolls from increasing July 1. They are searching for alternative fund-raising methods like higher fuel taxes and tolls in other parts of the state.

The three-member Turnpike Authority board is scheduled to return to the committee in two weeks with a full analysis of toll increase alternatives.

The board can unilaterally decide when and how much to raise tolls on the turnpike, but also must determine how to raise enough revenue to pay for a portion of the Big Dig.

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