Tolls are a big issue this year. Governor Malloy and majority party leaders have made proposals for tolls to be installed on Connecticut’s highways and earn more revenue for the State of Connecticut. It is now our job to determine whether this is the best way to fund necessary road and bridge repairs and other transportation-related improvements.
I would like to share with you some information (shared by the Yankee Institute) regarding the reality of having tolls installed in our state.
Many Connecticut residents believe that tolls would be limited to our borders, only charging motorists entering and leaving the State of Connecticut. Unfortunately, this is not the whole plan.
Connecticut would install congestion tolls — also known as value pricing tolls — electronic tolling stations that charge variable rates depending on the time of day and traffic congestion. On top of installing them along major highways such as I‑95, I-91, I-84, I-395, I-691, these tolls would be placed along highways within the state as well, including Routes 2, 6, 7, 8 and 15. During times of heavy traffic (i.e. rush hour), toll fees will rise. This type of tolling is therefore meant to reduce congestion by either incentivizing commuters to use highways at off-peak times or carpool. But it can get very expensive; an I-95 congestion tolling study recently conducted by the Department of Transportation shows that a full-length, one-way trip between New Haven and New York during peak hours would cost a commuter $6, while the same trip on the Merritt Parkway would be $5. This January in Washington, D.C. an interstate congestion toll once cost $47.25 during the morning rush hour.
In addition, Connecticut’s Transportation Finance Panel report shows that the state would have to spend $373 million just to set up the proposed tolling systems. According to the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC), this number does not even include the millions of dollars that will need to be spent on Environmental Impact studies, studies on traffic diversion, local road congestion and economic impacts.
Because of the costly installation fees, Connecticut will not benefit from increased revenue generated by tolls for two to three years. Meanwhile, Connecticut residents will be paying 70 percent of that revenue given the proposed toll locations.
Finally, federal law unfortunately allows toll revenue to be used for “unrelated transportation projects.” This means that though toll revenue must be spent on transportation-related projects, it does not necessarily have to be used to improve the actual roads that are being tolled.
I will continue to update you as the debate on tolls develops in Hartford.