Connecticut lawmakers mull fuel tax hike, tolls

| Thursday, February 10, 2005

Connecticut’s Transportation Strategy Board has some ideas on easing the problem of congestion on highways in the state.

One of the biggest strategies is to add one lane on Interstate 95 from Branford to the Rhode Island border. To do it, the board may look to raise the fuel tax.

Some of the board’s suggestions, outlined in a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, include adding the additional lane. To pay for the new lane, the board recommends a 3-cent-per-gallon boost to the fuel tax for each of the next five years, Hartford’s WFSB TV reported.

By 2011, drivers could be paying as much as 15 cents more per gallon at the pump.

Rell has offered her own plan to hike the fuel tax for transportation. The governor’s initiative would raise the tax by 6 cents per gallon over the next four years, and by another penny in 2014.

Paying higher taxes on fuel is not the only idea being discussed. The board wants to bring back tolls on all of the state’s major highways.

Despite proposals about high-tech electronic toll systems, key lawmakers and some administration officials say they doubt that Connecticut is ready either technically or politically to deal with tolls.

“I don’t think the issue of tolls is ripe as yet,” state Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, told the Bristol Press.

The reasons tolls aren’t expected to be at the top of the revenue-raising agenda include concerns that Connecticut might have to repay hundreds of million of dollars in federal aid it received after the state eliminated tolls in 1983.

The multiple complications of tolls appear to be nudging lawmakers and administration officials in the direction of a fuel tax.

Experts say that a 1-cent increase in the fuel tax would generate as much as $15 million a year.

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