Connecticut bills cover tolls, protecting road money

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/15/2013

Connecticut lawmakers are moving forward with plans to bring back tolls to boost sagging transportation dollars. A “lockbox” is also in the works 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.

Multiple bills winding their way through the statehouse would authorize tolling along Connecticut’s borders and on state Route 11 in the southeast portion of the state.

Awaiting consideration on the House floor is a bill to 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.

Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, said that he is opposed to tolls and the consequences they create for local economies.

“I find this study to be a much more sensible approach than hastily implementing a potentially very damaging system,” Scribner said in a news release.

The Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding voted on Friday, April 12, to send another bill to the full House. HB6052 would authorize tolls on the extension of state Route 11 from Salem to Interstate 95.

The project has a price tag of as much as $1.5 billion. The state would pay 20 percent of the cost through bonding. The federal government would cover the rest of the cost.

A provision in the bill prohibits tolls from being collected once all bonds for the project are paid.

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, is opposed to using tolls. In recent 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.

Also awaiting full House consideration are multiple measures that address the concern about raiding 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.

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

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