As the legislative session has progressed I promised you an update on where we stand on the issue of tolls coming back to state highways.
There has been a noticeable uptick in emails and phone calls to my office on the toll issue, with most of you, my constituents, asking me to oppose any toll proposal brought forth in the legislature this year.
Before I weigh in on this I want to update you on the bills regarding tolls that have moved forward.
There are currently four (4) toll proposals still alive in the legislative process:
Two of the proposals would create a transportation authority, governed by a board of political appointees. The agency’s purpose would be to construct, maintain, and operate highways and electronic tolling systems, and it would be charged with using toll revenues to pay for the costs of operation, maintenance, improvement, and administration. The agency would keep funds for these purposes in its own account, be able to employ people, issue bonds, and buy or lease property, and would be responsible for establishing toll rates, user classifications, and penalties for non-payment.
The only difference between these two plans is that one plan says that the transportation authority would not be created “until the General Assembly authorizes the implementation of electronic tolling systems”.
The third, Governor Malloy’s toll proposal, would authorize the DOT to implement an electronic tolling system and gives it all the responsibilities to a transportation authority.
The last proposal comes from the Chairman of the Transportation Committee and is a similar proposal to the Governor’s plan with one caveat—his plan allows DOT to implement tolls after the DOT has completed studies and submitted a complete tolling proposal to the legislature. The legislature would be expected to vote to approve or reject, although if the General Assembly fails to vote on it then after thirty days the plan would be deemed approved.
Now, my thoughts—the common theme of all four of these toll proposals is their complete and utter lack of detail. The proposals basically say vote now to implement and let an unelected new Transportation Authority appointed by the Governor make all the decisions without any legislative input. That would include: toll locations, number of toll gantries, toll fares (including the determination of what constitutes ‘congestion’ pricing). I also wonder if this new Authority would be able to shut down highway exits to maximize toll revenue or would they simply put a toll gantry on each exit ramp off the state highways. I quickly think about the example of the Metro-North fares and how the DOT sets and raises rail fares and the legislature has no ability to stop a proposed hike. All reports that have been conducted on where the money will come from gives a range of 65% to 75% coming from YOUR POCKETS and the remainder from out-of-staters. The estimated cost based on a DOT study would be just under $250/month. This is one week of childcare, or a month of groceries.
I am a NO on tolls! Please feel free to contact me on this or any other matters of concern to you.