Editorial: Tolls are a dead end

Wilton’s legislators — Sen. Toni Boucher and Reps. Gail Lavielle and Tom O’Dea — are spot on in opposing a return to highway tolls.

A number of bills filed this legislative season float the idea of new tolls, but they should all be parked in the breakdown lane. Yes, the state is scrounging for money from every nook and cranny, but taking it out of the pockets of drivers is not the answer. Drivers already contribute enough through the gasoline tax.

The tolls, which would be taken electronically, are different from the toll plazas like the one on I-95 in Stratford where a tractor-trailer accident killed seven people in 1983.

They would no doubt raise money, and probably lots of it. But a big bucket of money is tempting and the state has shown no restraint in the past in raiding transportation funds. (At least the MTA in New York, which AAA calls the Money Taking Authority, uses its hefty tolls to subsidize mass transit. In Connecticut, transportation money has been funneled into the general fund.)

While tolls on the state’s major highways will not affect Wilton directly in a geographic sense, they will affect any person who needs to drive out of state — for business or pleasure. If you work in Westchester or New York, you can add that cost to your daily commute. Need to take your child to school in Boston? Pay up. Need to go to a hospital in New York City? It will cost you more.

While it is logical to expect drivers to pay for the maintenance of roads they use, this is what the gasoline tax is for. Will the gas tax be rescinded if the tolls are put in place? It does not seem likely. Must drivers pay twice for using state roads?

There has been talk that the funds from tolls would be put in a “lockbox,” to be used only for transportation. If that is so, who gets the key?