Connecticut bills promote tolls, 'lockbox'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/26/2013

Connecticut lawmakers are looking at the possibility of bringing back tolls to boost sagging transportation dollars. They also want to create a “lockbox” for road-related revenue.

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. Fuel tax revenues that have fallen as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and people drive less are blamed for a shortfall in money available to keep up.

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

The first bill would authorize a study on adding tolls. HB6051 would require the commissioner of transportation to also analyze the DOT’s ability to limit toll revenue for transportation purposes only.

In addition, the possibility of reducing the state’s fuel tax rates would be studied.

A separate bill, HB6052, would authorize tolls on the extension of state Route 11 from Salem to Interstate 95.

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 fuel taxes, to our transportation needs, I believe it is inappropriate to seek more revenues,” Lavielle recently testified.

The transportation committee addressed this concern by advancing multiple efforts to prohibit raids on the state’s Special Transportation Fund.

HB6039 would specify that any money routed to transportation would be used solely for related purposes. HJ63 would amend the state’s Constitution to limit the use of revenue in the Special Transportation Fund.

The legislation awaits further consideration at the statehouse.

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

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