Tolls mentioned as possibility for Connecticut road funding

| 2/13/2006

Top House Democrats in Connecticut said last week that all options – including reviving tolls and increasing fuel taxes – are on the table to fully fund a plan to alleviate the state’s traffic problems.

House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said the state would likely need $6 billion to $7 billion to pay for a 10-year plan drafted by the state Transportation Strategy Board in 2003.

Recommendations include widening Interstate 95 from Branford to the Rhode Island line, improving Interstate 84 from Danbury to Waterbury, more rail trips to New York, and adding a commuter rail line from New Haven to Springfield, MA.

Proposed funding for the Democrats’ plan includes: bonds; part of a $537 million state surplus; tolls; or an increase in the state’s fuel tax.

Amann said he would prefer not to bring back tolls but would not rule it out.

“It would be irresponsible for me to come up here and say we’re not going to consider tolls,” Amann told the Bristol Press. “I hate the gas tax. Am I going to rule that out, too? So what do you got left? I have to be realistic.”

Drivers were freed from paying to use Connecticut highways in 1985 after accidents near tollbooths raised safety concerns. Critics also pointed out the original purpose of the tolls were to pay off the cost of construction – a task that had been achieved.

Amann said the state might consider an electronic toll system. Legislators first would need to ensure tolls would not jeopardize federal highway funds.