Boucher: Will tolls be coming to state roads?

As the 2015 legislative session begins, the issue of tolls has once again been brought to the forefront of Connecticut’s transportation policy debate. Doubts about the prospect of reintroducing tolls on our highways have also resurfaced.

The question now, as in previous years, is whether the legislature and the administration are prepared to add tolls on top of the highest gas tax in the nation. If tolls were added on top of this, we would further exacerbate Connecticut’s reputation as the most expensive state in which to live, retire or do business.

As many have pointed out, raiding of funds nominally reserved for transportation has been a common practice. There are very real concerns that revenues derived from tolls would not be used for transportation.

The governor recently attempted to address this problem by proposing a lock box that would reserve transportation funds for transportation needs. However, the administration’s proposal would still contain significant loopholes that would prevent funds from being secured for transportation needs only.

In order for this lock box to work, it would have to apply not only to fees collected from tolls, but also from rails, the DMV and other sources. Transportation expenses from other state departments must not be moved into the transportation budget, and the normal budget subsidy to the Special Transportation Fund must not be reduced to offset any increase in revenue from tolls.

Only when these and other potential loopholes are closed will I have confidence that the lock box would work as intended.

Yet, even if tolls were put in place, there is reason to doubt they would bring in as much revenue as their proponents suggest. New technologies and electronic tolling mechanisms exist to fine violators who pass through tolls without an E-Z pass, but studies show that 20% to 30% of those fined never pay.

The prospect of tolls has also revived skepticism among many residents who feel this is yet another example of the state reaching into the pockets of hardworking citizens. Border tolls would have a disproportionate impact on those living in Connecticut towns near New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and who must cross the border to get to work.

Those communities will also suffer from increased congestion due to diversion, as many drivers may cut through local neighborhoods in order to avoid the tolls.

We should also remember the tragic Stratford Toll Plaza crash in 1983, which killed six people, and consider the possible dangers of reinstating tolls on our highways.

The means to adequately funding our transportation infrastructure should be found by ending the raids on the Special Transportation Fund and ensuring those monies go where they are most needed.

Since the governor is determined to make transportation a top priority this session, it is more important than ever that the people of Connecticut contact their elected officials and make sure their opinion on this issue is heard.

Sen. Boucher represents the 26th Senatorial District, which includes Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton. She can be reached at, 800-842-1421, or