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Norwalk considers state proposal to re-install tolls

(VIEW FACTOR IMAGES/SHUTTERSTOCK)

NORWALK, Conn. — Tolls were a topic, Tuesday in Norwalk.

The informational forum at the Norwalk Inn offered information on the state’s Special Transportation Fund, the target of the revenue that would be derived from tolls, and explainers on current thinking on tolls. Also, State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Terri Wood (R-141) criticized on Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed budget.

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

The Special Transportation Fund had its origins in 1984 – shortly after the Mianus River bridge collapsed – when then-Gov. William O’Neill created it to pay back bonds on a 10-year infrastructure renewal program, State Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134) said.

The fund shifted over the next few years, and, “What our state has done has been very effective, at moving every expense related to transportation to the transportation fund but not every revenue source,” Devlin said.

“In essence, the special transportation fund really doesn’t fund projects,” she said.

A slide from a PowerPoint presentation given Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

Connecticut residents are confused because there seem to be multiple options, but most are illegal, Devlin explained. You can’t put tolls only on the borders, you can’t tax only out-of-state cars and not only is tolling only trucks probably illegal, but it wouldn’t cover the cost of the infrastructure needed to put the tolls in, she said.

A study completed in November said the state would raise $1.068 billion with tolls, and Lamont is now calling it $800 million, Devlin said, explaining that the study predicted $645 million from Connecticut residents.

Add that to the $500 million paid by state residents in gas taxes, “this is a $1.145 billion hit on Connecticut residents,” she said.

The study put out a “very well thought out rigorous program” for tolls, designed to get the most from out of state residents as possible and spread the tolls across Connecticut, keeping the rates low, she said.

This is the plan derided locally, as tolls would be 6.6 miles apart.

“It’s a little troubling in Fairfield County,” Devlin said, asserting that the positioning of the tolls is generally intended to avoid diversion to other roads, but the exits are so close together here that some people would probably use local roads to avoid tolls.

Lamont’s plan is different, she said.

Lamont has mapped out a plan that would include 53 gantries and limit the tolling to Interstates 84, 91, 95 and Route 15, CTNewsJunkie reports.

“Connecticut would be the most heavily, densely tolled state,” Devlin said.

“No state has attempted what Connecticut is now in the early stages of promoting: Devising a plan to install tolling on existing highways throughout the state, as opposed to placing tolls on a single road, bridge or tunnel,” the CT Mirror states, calling it a “complex undertaking, especially when most of the system was constructed with federal funds.”

If approved this year, tolls would become effective in four years, news reports say.

Wood and Lavielle did not directly address tolls.

“It was disappointing to have a look at (Lamont’s) first budget proposal because it has almost no cuts in it,” Lavielle said. “It has taxes on everything you weren’t taxed on before….all a revenue based budget, and spending increases.”

Democrats are addicted to spending and they’ve run the state for 40 years, Wood said, urging those in attendance “not to give up hope.”

The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth recommended taking benefits out of collective bargaining, she said, asking audience members to talk to their Democratic legislators and ask them “to rethink their votes on union contracts.”

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142) on Jan. 31 discussed tolls at their forum in Norwalk Community College.

This was after a man said he would be burned $300 to $500 a month by tolls, because he’s on the road as a salesman.

“We are all about being small business friendly in Connecticut and I think this whole toll situation is the most unfriendly business proposal that the state can put forward,” he said. “…How can anyone vote yes to a toll and why is that transportation fund raided?”

“There’s been no raid on the transportation fund,” Duff said, calling that a “myth.”

“Connecticut is the only state on the I-95 corridor, throughout Florida and all the way up through Maine, that does not have tolling. There are estimates that you could bring in $ 1 billion of revenue,” Duff said, explaining that Connecticut wouldn’t need to borrow money to fix its infrastructure, and tolls are a user fee, like buying a train ticket.

Gas tax revenue is declining because gas is cheaper and cars are more efficient, cutting the financial feed into the Special Transportation fund, he said.

There are estimates that 70 percent of the tolls will be paid by Connecticut residents, Dathan said, pointing out that you can drive through Connecticut on a tank of gas.

“It looks like most of our gas taxes are born 100 percent by Connecticut residents,” she said, commenting that she’d personally like to see the gas tax reduced, and, “My feeling is, why should we subsidize people from New York to get to the Cape? What’s the first thing you do when you get to New York? You pay your toll. I see it as a usage fee.”

 

 

24 comments

Sue Haynie February 28, 2019 at 6:26 am

Of course Duff is for tolls and not for controlling public employment benefits & pension costs—even though tolls will negatively affect Norwalk, the town the consistently re-elects him. Norwalk gets what it deserves/voted for.

A November study shows Connecticut making $1.068 billion on tolls (Lamont says that Connecticut would raise $800 million)— State Rep. Laura Devlin explained “that the study predicted $645 million from Connecticut residents.” CT residents will pay the lion’s share of tolls. Devlin continues “Add that to the $500 million paid by state residents in gas taxes, “this is a $1.145 billion hit on Connecticut residents,” she said.”

Mike Mushak February 28, 2019 at 8:45 am

The GOP plan to replace toll revenue as I understand it is to simply borrow the money to fix our infrastructure, stealing bonding capacity from other necessary state projects like schools and parks, and saddling future generations with the debt.

Isn’t that the same thinking what got us into the pension mess that’s causing all of our problems? Both parties, yes Republicans too including Rowland and Rell, deferred pension payments because they just thought future generations could afford it.

It’s as if Republicans at both the state and federal level have forgotten their old reputation as fiscal conservatives, and are hell- bent to saddle us with debt forever.

Sorry, been there done that. Were no lessons learned at all by Republicans on the pension mess? We need tolls now to fix our highways and trains and get CT out of the transportation gridlock that costs all of us a lot more than tolls ever will.

Bryan Meek February 28, 2019 at 8:59 am

If you think town traffic is bad now, just wait until the tolls come. How many 1000s of cars that would ordinarily take 95 to cross the river from one side of town to the other will now just clog up city streets? And with East and West Aves and Rt 1 clogged…..and Waze….they will be slicing through neighborhoods. Great idea.

Here’s a stupid idea. If you need more revenue, raise the per gallon tax at the pump instead of creating another bueauracracy that eventually will consume all of the revenue it takes in and then some.

marija bryant February 28, 2019 at 9:51 am

the money has to come from somewhere. Tolls are a minor hit on the individual taxpayer. And as for our local roads – if they become traffic burdened, people will trade money for time and get back to highways (even with tolls) to get where they are going faster. Do you take back roads when going to Boston to avoid paying for the Mass Pike? Of course not. Long distance highways should be toll roads. Maybe they are already proposing this – but the tolls could be structured so that travel for XX miles is free (for local traffic). And then tolls increase incrementally for distance traveled to a max of $x for traveling the full length of the CT portion of the road. I think tolls make sense. And so does improving our local public transit to get more cars off the road. How about a train station on Wall Street?

Pamela Parkington February 28, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Milton – Reason is a Libertarian think tank, not very unbiased, so I question where they are getting their numbers.

“Reason Foundation advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.”

Also, can you name one advanced Country that is based on Libertarian principles?

Eleanor Lx February 28, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Why are the Democrats incapable of cutting spending? Continuing to grow the welfare state and selling out to unions without structural reform is hardly a recipe for growth. More layers of taxes in the form of tolls will not be helpful to the struggling working class. The new governor is prescribing more of the same which will further exacerbate CT’s race to the bottom — insane!

Claire Schoen February 28, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Tolls or no tolls? Local news or no local news?

Claire here, to remind everyone it’s Giving Day – we are really, really close to our target of 50+ donors — which will win us a cash prize from Giving Day organizers. If you’re reading this, you must value Nancy On Norwalk — please show some support if you haven’t already.

https://www.fcgives.org/organizations/nancy-on-norwalk

Just a thought February 28, 2019 at 7:48 pm

How about the state collects toll revenue for five years to fund roadway improvements. After 5 years if I am driving on 95 at more than 50 mph I continue to pay. If I’m going less then 40 mph because of construction or congestion the State pays me for my lost time?

Grorge D. February 28, 2019 at 7:51 pm

Did anyone read what Bob Duuf said? “CT is the only state from Florida to Maine without tolls,” Bob, I do not know what tolls you pay on 95 south of Virgina and well into Florida or North into RI,MA and Maine but just last month on my round trip to Florida I did not see or pay any toll in NC, SC, GA or FL. Pleaee ket us know Bob where those yools are. We will wait for your answer while you find them.

Milton February 28, 2019 at 9:02 pm

Pamela

“Also, can you name one advanced Country that is based on Libertarian principles?”

Why don’t you reread your own post
“Reason Foundation advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.”

Wasn’t the United States of America founded on principles of individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law?

Here is some more about Libertarianism….

Basic Principles of Libertarianism

The foundation of libertarianism is individual freedom. The individual should be free to make his or her own choices according to his or her own desires, as long as those choices don’t infringe on the rights of others. The most important and basic human rights, according to libertarianism, are life, liberty and property. Libertarians believe that these “natural rights” existed before and outside of any organized form of government [source: Boaz]. If left to themselves, libertarians argue, people will respect and protect these rights. Government doesn’t need to force or coerce us.

https://people.howstuffworks.com/libertarianism1.htm

Ron Morris March 1, 2019 at 12:10 am

Grorge D.
Each of the states that you claim that do not have tolls actually do. A quick google search will prove you wrong.

Piberman March 1, 2019 at 8:11 am

Bring on the CT tolls. Why complain about another CT tax. Especially with a billion dollars in new sales taxes proposed by the Governor. Everyone knows new taxes will help revive CT with its decade long stagnant economy and employment levels. It’s our new Governor’s plan – tolls and higher sales taxes. And just imagine how tolls would improve prospects for Norwalk’s new Downtown Mall. No wonder Sen. Duff likes tolls. To help Norwalk ! Now’s the time to gather steam for a Toll Station on I-95 in Norwalk. Maybe those working around the tolls will go shopping in Norwalk.

David March 1, 2019 at 8:16 am

politicians this is very simple you need to do two things need to cut funding and find other revenue sources to fix the mess you created here’s an idea legalize weed which nobody’s going to complain about and and all of the prosecution of the stupid people that get caught with weed I don’t even like the drug addicts but if I have to choose between shape making money off of something I never use versus having to raise my rates or move because I can’t afford the no less than $5,000 a year I’ll be spending on tolls I’ll take legalizing something I don’t support

Steve March 1, 2019 at 8:47 am

Having taught economics for 25 years, I can say without reservation that there are no free lunches or free highways. Government provides roads as a public good because markets would generally not support road building. Roads provide all kind of positive externalities bu they also cost something and someone has to pay. Many of the people that use our roads don’t pay any Ct. taxes- they are the proverbial free rider. Free roads create all kinds of incentives that are inconsistent with good economic practices

George D March 1, 2019 at 11:31 am

Ron Morris. I am sorry you are almost correct. I did a second quick google search and the results are below. Did you not think I did a google search before I made my post? For the record I-77 in Nortch Carolina is adding Express lane toll from around Lake Norman into Charlotte. Oh and by the if you take 78 to 81 to 64 to 228 to 95 in Hopewell,VA.and continue south into Florida you would only pay a 1 dollar toll going into PA. and no tolls coming North. Except of course the 5 dollar toll at the Tapen Zee.
https://www-i95exitguide-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.i95exitguide.com/tolls/?amp=&usqp=mq331AQCCAE%3D&amp_js_v=0.1#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.i95exitguide.com%2Ftolls%2F

Paul Lanning March 1, 2019 at 12:23 pm

I drove from Norwalk to NYC and back at least 5 times a week for decades. Hardly anyone re-routes to avoid tolls-it wastes too much time.

EZ-Pass technology has removed the need to slow down at tolls, thus eliminating the safety concerns which led to CT’s removal of the tolls in 1988.

Highway tolls are a non-issue. Every other east coast state has them. They’re either a part of commuting cost, or part of business overhead.

George D March 1, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Well Paul lets do what all other state do then. Like Georgia. I’d love to have the open carry law like they do. It makes carrying much more comfortable.

Tolls will be like taxes. Just keep raising them. Spend spend spend.

Here is a list of states with tolls. You should note that some states only put tolls on high speed or HOV lanes. But going back to what dear old Bob said about every state having tolls on 95. He is dead wrong.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_toll_roads_in_the_United_States

Claire Schoen March 1, 2019 at 3:32 pm

The video of Connecticut’s first female toll collector is priceless. Thank you, Harold!

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski March 2, 2019 at 10:30 pm

Just saying what a pleasant surprise it is to see Mrs. Courtenay Austen and hear about her work as a toll collector! What a treasure to our community she is!

Christine T Bisceglie March 3, 2019 at 8:20 am

Dear Norwalk Legislators,
Thank you for serving our great state and country. Our political structure was created to ensure, encourage and to foster collaboration among us. Tolls are not a new conversation to CT but bringing forth plans using the latest technologies are. So important a subject which will affect every resident in the state, I ask you would not a bi -partisan approach in how the public receives this information only ensure compromise a necessity for a robust democracy ?
To me the two partisan public forums held without our own very Norwalk legislator who is not only a member of the transportation committee but a vice chair seems almost negligent. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use a public forum to have a healthy discussion around the issue of tolls? The most recent forum was titled “Informational Forum on Tolls.” Yet as NON reports at least one legislator chose to use partisan rhetoric without a mention of the tolls. Did this further divide the audience ? See the video .
After observing high school students last week hold a moot court trial on a controversial issue with full composure, I have to ask myself : How do we teach our children civility and to have hope in the democratic process ? I wonder what a 16 year old thinks ( or behaves ) after watching an 80 something, year old former toll worker proudly dressed in a CT state uniform who has chosen to exercise their right to speak after given the floor , who has chosen to stay in CT gets interrupted by an audience member who shouts at them “ You’re welcome ! ” after they mention having a good pension ?
Going forward can you please collaborate on this important issue by crossing the aisle on a local level ( State Hearing March 4 ) and show the public you are all working together to come up with the best plan for the state by holding bi partisan forums ? Passion is important, but we need the facts , ideas , and follow through. Together we have a chance to solve the fiscal woes of our state, but when a platform is used for self gain, fingers point back not only at you but at all of us. And thanks to our great country we have a choice to be innovative in our approach.

Bryan Meek March 3, 2019 at 8:21 am

Just look at what is happening with MTA. These tollls and mass transit schemes always start with good intentions of creating sustainability, but eventually devolve into pension funding schemes that go bust. We already have too many of these ready to flounder. Why institute another land grab?

Sandy M. March 8, 2019 at 11:40 am

Having been a life long resident in Fairfield County, I see the tolls as a VERY BAD idea! Does no one remember the massive car/truck wrecks and the human deaths that occurred because of those tolls? And now you want more human carnage? NO TOLLS! Human life is much more important than Tax Revenue! Besides, tolls unfairly hurt poor/lower middle class because it’s a regressive tax. Instead do what Gov. Ella Grasso did, pull over EVERY car caught speeding on the highways of CT, and collect ticket $$$ and fines $$$. She balanced the budget fairly quickly!

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