Toni Boucher: Tolls more complicated than public is led to believe
State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) issued a press release today saying proponents gloss over the details when promoting tolls as the answer to Connecticut’s transportation funding issues
“In their zeal to bring tolls to our state, legislators are not talking about the cost to plan for and build tolling gantries. They don’t talk about the fact that the federal government would have to approve any proposals before construction could start, and once that hurdle is crossed, that it will take years before the work is completed and the state sees one dime,” said Boucher, who serves as co-chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.
When Connecticut removed tolls in the 1980s, its agreement with the federal government required that new tolls address highway congestion, she said. Congestion tolling is a relatively new concept and a 2015 study by CDM Smith included 78 tolling gantries throughout the state.
“I don’t think the general public understands what congestion tolling in Connecticut would look like,” she said. “Commissioner Redeker is already on record saying that congestion tolling would make Connecticut the most heavily tolled state in the nation. When you add in the fact that 70% of toll revenue would come from Connecticut drivers, you are placing the heaviest burden on those lower-income drivers who can least afford it.”
Boucher said another aspect of the tolling proposals not getting much notice is who would make the decisions about where tolls would be located and how much they would charge.
“The governor’s proposal has the Department of Transportation making decisions about tolls. If it’s anything like the agency’s approach to rail and bus fares and routes, public input will fall on deaf ears,” she said. “The other proposals create a quasi-public transportation authority, which also does not answer to the public. This allows legislators to approve tolls, and then wash their hands of the responsibility when Connecticut drivers realize they’ve been taken to the cleaners.”
Boucher said the Yankee Institute testified at a public hearing on tolls and estimated the average cost of tolls to Connecticut drivers would be about $240 a month. This would be on top of Connecticut having the sixth-highest gas taxes in the country.
“Connecticut is already driving out the wealthiest residents who can pick up and move anywhere they want,” she said. “To the middle class and lower-income residents who are left behind, $240 a month may break them. How is this supposed to help revitalize Connecticut’s economy? We can have the nicest roads in the country, but if workers and businesses can’t afford to drive on them, what is the point? Tolls are another expense the taxpayers of Connecticut cannot afford.”
Boucher represents Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.