Connecticut toll proposals meet opposition

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/8/2013

A push is underway once again at the Connecticut statehouse to bring back tolls.

Tolls have been off-limits in the state since the mid-’80s when state officials removed tolls from the Connecticut Turnpike. Concerns about safety and congestion spurred the state to remove toll booths.

Advocates for charging highway users to access existing roads say that the state’s road funding needs warrant revisiting tolls. State estimates put the cost to repair and maintain transportation infrastructure during the next few years at as much as $5 billion.

The Joint Committee on Transportation recently heard testimony on multiple bills to authorize tolling along Connecticut’s borders and on state Route 11 in the southeast portion of the state.

Toll bills under consideration:

  • HB5125 would establish tolls on the state’s highways.
  • HB6050 would set up tolls at the state’s borders.
  • HB6051 would authorize tolls at the state’s borders and cut in half the 45-cent-per-gallon gas tax over four years. The 52-cent diesel tax rate would remain unchanged.
  • HB6052 would authorize tolls on the extension of state Route 11 from Salem to Interstate 95.
  • SB699 would establish tolls with a congestion pricing system and reduce the gas tax.

Supporters say that Connecticut needs a revenue method to get money from truckers and others who pass through the state without buying fuel.

OOIDA leadership points out truck drivers already foot quite a bill to travel through states, including Connecticut. While truckers may not buy fuel in the state, they still pay whatever Connecticut’s fuel tax is for every mile they run in the state.

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, is opposed to tolls. In testimony, she referred to the state’s history of diverting transportation revenue to the state’s General Fund for other purposes.

Lavielle pointed out that just one year ago $70 million was taken from transportation.

“Until we have a mechanism in place to dedicate all transportation revenues, including mass transit fares and gasoline taxes, to our transportation needs, I believe it is inappropriate to seek more revenues,” Lavielle testified.

Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut pointed out to lawmakers that state already has the highest fuel tax rates in the nation.

Instead, he said that lawmakers would be better served to enact a constitutional protection to ensure that transportation revenue is not diverted for other uses.

“This is a mess. Over the years people have been playing with this fund. They put things in. They take things out,” Riley said. “Until you get your act together on this special transportation fund please don’t talk to us about giving you any more money.”

Multiple efforts offered at the statehouse are intended to protect transportation revenue. They include:

  • HB6039 would specify that any money routed to transportation would be used solely for related purposes.
  • HB6164 would create a “lock box” for the Special Transportation Fund to ensure that all revenue deposited into the fund is used only for transportation projects.
  • HJ63 would amend the state’s Constitution to limit the use of revenue in the Special Transportation Fund.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Connecticut, click here.

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