Legislative Leaders Get Briefed On Transportation Plan With Fewer Tolls
CT News Junkie, October 31, 2019
By Christine Stuart
No Tolls CT, which registered as a lobbying organization back in June, is sending out mailers to thousands of Connecticut residents.
It’s the latest step in their effort to prevent officials from erecting electronic tolls on a dozen bridges or highway choke points.
The mailer says “Connecticut wants to tax you for driving to work.” It includes bullet points about how much money was diverted before reaching the Special Transportation Fund and how much Connecticut spends to maintain and repair its roads.
Gov. Ned Lamont is meeting with legislative leaders this week to get their final feedback on his 10-year, $18-billion proposal to improve Connecticut’s roads, rail, and public transit. Lawmakers were privately briefed on a proposal that reduces the number of tolls from 50 to around a dozen.
In a letter the group sent to lawmakers last week, Patrick Sasser, founder of No Tolls CT, said they appreciate the reduction in gantries, but still won’t support any proposal that includes tolling based on their lack of trust in government.
Following an unrelated event in Waterbury Tuesday, Lamont said they are trying to fix the choke points in Connecticut’s transportation system in a fiscally responsible way. He said he’s meeting with lawmakers and next week plans to make it public.
“I think people are honestly giving it a second look,” Lamont said. “We got a lot of feedback from the legislature the last time around.”
Lamont’s first proposal made in February didn’t gain much steam and was never raised for a vote in either chamber.
But Lamont believes there’s a better understanding of the problem.
“We convinced people it’s not a problem that will go away,” Lamont said.
Lamont said that in order to access the low-interest loans from the federal government the state is going to have to provide a revenue stream and some of that will come from tolls that will be paid, at least in part, by out-of-state drivers.
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Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, who endorsed tolls when he ran for governor back in 2010, said Lamont assured him that general tolling on I-95, I-91, the Merritt Parkway, and I-84 will not be implemented, which means there will be no border tolls in the Danbury area and no possible diversion of traffic into Ridgefield because of tolls.
“The governor told me that the only tolling currently being contemplated was for superstructures like a new bridge or other similar features that require large-scale construction,” Marconi said Tuesday in a press release. “In those instances, any tolling would be local to the project and would remain in place only until the bond was paid off.”
Sources who have been briefed on Lamont’s proposal said all the tolls would be removed once the billions in improvements were made over the 10-year period.
Sasser and others have said that Lamont’s decision not to release municipal funding for road improvements could be a mistake.
Lamont has declined to release the money through the Bond Commission until he can reach a deal on his transportation plan.
“The governor is playing a dangerous game as we head into winter,” Sasser said. “Attempting to withhold money promised to municipalities for things like snow-plowing to gain support for his new plan is more trick than treat.”
Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said that towns and cities have been dipping into their reserves and others are holding off on projects until the state approves the funding. Many town officials are concerned about what adjustments they will need to make in the next month or so as winter approaches and the need for road salt and other supplies increases.