Rep. Cummings Reacts to Governor’s Transportation Plan

Posted on November 8, 2019 by admin


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HARTFORD – State Representative Stephanie Cummings (R-74) today voiced strong opposition to Governor Lamont’s recently released $21 billion transportation plan that would be funded in part by adding “temporary” tolls to 14 highway bridges across the state, including Waterbury’s Mixmaster and Route 8.

Release of the long-awaited plan had been repeatedly delayed as the governor faced mounting public anger after he diverted $171 million from the Special Transportation Fund to help balance the state budget and then proposed adding tolls to state highways to pay for their repair. So far, more than 100,000 people have signed a statewide petition against tolls, and a recent survey of more than 100 of Rep. Cummings’ constituents showed that 96% were against adding tolls, including temporary tolls, to Connecticut highways.

While scaled down from his previous proposals that included as many as 82 tolls, the plan released yesterday will still cost Connecticut drivers approximately another $256 million annually as they navigate 14 proposed “temporary” toll locations on eight highways.

“State government does not have a good track record regarding temporary taxation and I have very strong concerns that if these tolls are implemented they will never be removed, just like the income tax,” Rep. Cummings said. “This latest toll-and-tax transportation plan shows how out of touch the governor is with the true needs of the people of our state who continue to struggle to afford the barrage of new and increased taxes on everything from soda and restaurant meals to their Netflix subscriptions. The people of Connecticut have loudly and repeatedly said they cannot afford another tax. They do not want tolls.”

Lamont’s 14 page plan calls for spending $21 billion over 10 years to repair and upgrade Connecticut highways and bridges. The proposal assumes toll rates will be somewhere between 40 cents and 80 cents for drivers who register for a Connecticut E-Z Pass.

With two tolling locations in Waterbury, at these costs a trip across town – from the east end to Watertown Ave., or other areas on the west side of the city, via I-84 and Route 8 – would likely cost anywhere from $1.60 to $3.20 round trip. That’s an extra $416 to $832 per year, per car, to make that commute – as many residents do – each and every work day. If you want to visit friends or relatives across town on the weekends, an additional $166.40 to $332.80 per year would be incurred.  Of course, our local roads will also see an impact as many people attempt to avoid the tolls, adding increased traffic and wear and tear to our city streets.

The borrowing term for a loan to build the 14 toll gantries is 27 years, and because the plan calls for borrowing in the plan’s 10th year, Connecticut will need to keep tolls open for a minimum of 37 years just to break even. In other words, the governor’s definition of “temporary” seems to be 37+ years.

Other points in the plan include:

  • Toll gantries will begin collecting fees in 2023
  • Toll revenue will be used to pay down debt on bridge repairs, enhancements and maintenance, as well as other “legitimate transportation purposes”
  • A promised reduction in commute times for MetroNorth riders
  • New cars and track straightening work for MetroNorth
  • Funding for unidentified projects, such as “air quality improvements,” “local, small value projects,” a “Community Connectivity program” and “safety projects”

Under this plan Waterbury will receive approximately $3.8 million to replace buses, $350,000 to replace bus shelters, $20.4 million for work on two bridges ($10.2 million each), $20 million for Waterbury Branch signalization, and $50 million for the Waterbury Branch for high-level platforms to improve the customer experience by allowing direct boarding onto the rail car without the use of stairs.

“I remain concerned that the governor and legislative Democrats refuse to listen to the people and instead of cutting wasteful state spending keep trying to force taxes and tolls to raise revenue,” Rep. Cummings said. “Connecticut residents are taxed enough.”