Posted on January 28, 2020 by admin
Last night, State Senate Democrats released a “working draft” of their Transportation Plan – An Act Concerning the Sustainability of Connecticut’s Infrastructure – that includes a provision that would add tolls to Connecticut highways for ” large commercial trucks at limited access highway bridges requiring construction, reconstruction or replacement.”
The 32 page document outlines their plan to add 12 toll gantries at specific bridges around the state, including two locations in Greater Waterbury – “On Interstate 84 and Connecticut Route 8 in the city of Waterbury” and “On Connecticut Route 8, south of the interchange with Interstate 84 in the city of Waterbury” – Lines 42 and 61-62
After reading the proposal last night, I have several concerns, including but not limited to:
- In Section 8, the language could be interpreted to mean that tolls could be expanded to passenger vehicles after July 1, 2022 – Line 273
- A Transportation Policy Council will be established to create and oversee policies for improving transportation, setting the price of the tolls, and choosing the projects that the toll revenue will finance. The Council will be made up of a disproportionate number of officials appointed by majority party Democrats, with Republican minority representation limited to only a few appointments from a board of more than 15 members – Line 309
- Transportation infrastructure plans will be deemed approved if they’re not acted on by the Transportation Council within 15 days. This not only removes legislative oversight but allows for projects to move forward without even actual approval from the Council – Line 421
- The Department of Transportation may propose, and the Transportation Policy Council may approve, changes to the toll rate by the rate of inflation or a rate based on the construction cost index, whichever is greater. This provision removes any legislative oversight on toll rates and allows potentially unchecked increases – Lines 142-148
- The governor will have the ability to declare an emergency in “the existence of extraordinary circumstances” and with “at least three-fifths of the members of each chamber of the General Assembly” vote to change the provisions of the plan, which could include raising toll rates or expand tolling to include other vehicles like passenger cars. The tolling provisions may also be changed to protect the bond holders, which also could expand tolling to other vehicles like passenger cars – Lines 279-294
- Bridge construction work would need to be performed by union workers and subject to prevailing wage requirements or project labor agreements which can add substantial project costs and limit the ability of local workers or smaller companies to be part of the project – Line 114
- Toll rates will be set 50% higher for trucks without a transponder, potentially increasing costs for small, local businesses that get passed directly to customers – Line 13
- There’s a provision that says trucks would only be assessed one toll per day, per direction, but it’s not specified whether that’s a calendar day or a 24-hour period. Depending on how this is interpreted it could cost twice as much to operate a truck than advertised – Line 139
These issues are substantial, but I am also concerned with the potential for increased traffic on local Waterbury streets as large trucks sidestep bridge tolls. Adding more traffic, especially large commercial trucks, to our streets will hurt local businesses and cause costs to rise.
If you have questions or concerns about this plan and would like to have your voice heard, please attend the public hearing on Friday, January 31st at the Legislative Office Building located at 300 Capitol Ave. in Hartford.
If you would like to email testimony to the Transportation Committee instead, please submit your written testimony (PDF document) via email by sending it to TRAtestimony@cga.ct.gov. Be sure to include the bill numbers in the subject line, and please copy my office at Stephanie.Cummings@housegop.ct.gov