The speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives is urging his fellow lawmakers to approve a fuel-tax increase as an alternative to toll increases being considered by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi issued a statement on Wednesday, Nov. 19, to say that the burden of debt involved with the Big Dig tunnel project should not be dumped solely on turnpike users through toll increases.
“Given the excessive proposal now on the table for doubling some tolls, one that will cost drivers in certain areas hundreds of dollars more each year just to get to work, I believe we must seriously consider alternatives like a gas tax increase,” DiMasi stated.
Massachusetts currently collects 21 cents per gallon on gasoline and diesel fuel. DiMasi did not state what the tax should be or if an increase would be the same for gas and diesel, but he pointed out that Massachusetts is below the average of 25 cents per gallon for gasoline among states.
“The fact is, the Massachusetts gas tax is below the national average. And while we would all prefer not to burden drivers with any new cost in difficult times, I believe the gas tax is a fairer way to share our costs and it should be fully considered before any tolls are increased,” he stated.
DiMasi is also urging transportation agencies to save money by cutting costs.
Gov. Deval Patrick has stated several times in recent months that he is not opposed to a fuel-tax increase but said it is not his first choice, either. Patrick has hinted at disbanding the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and merging its current duties into other transportation agencies.
The Turnpike Authority is considering toll increases from the current rate of $3.50 to $7 for passenger vehicles at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels and from the current rate of $1.25 to $2 at the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll plazas according to Boston media.
A turnpike spokesman has not returned calls by Land Line concerning truck toll rates.
Before any toll rates are raised, the turnpike authority must conduct public hearings and a final vote by its board of directors.
– By David Tanner, staff writer