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Opinion: Why Norwalk Republicans oppose tolls

 

The Norwalk Republican Town Committee distributed the following statement Friday.

 

The Norwalk Republican Town Committee on Friday, March 22, 2019 submitted a resolution to the Governor of Connecticut and the Connecticut State Legislature declaring its opposition to the implementation of tolls on state highways in Connecticut.

The Norwalk Republican Town Committee believes that the implementation of tolls on Connecticut highways would represent a financial hardship for residents as well as result in increased traffic on the secondary roads in the City of Norwalk with motorists attempting to bypass the tolls.

The Norwalk Republican Town Committee believes that tolls would represent another tax on already heavily burdened residents, including:

 

  1. Norwalk small business owners who travel to other towns to service their customers or conduct business-related travels;
  1. Norwalk residents who commute to other towns or neighboring states where rail service is not available or convenient;
  1. Norwalk residents who visit family members or friends who reside outside of Fairfield County, many for financial reasons;
  1. Residents of other towns who commute daily to Norwalk for work, most earning less than our median income as teachers, nurses, first responders, etc.;
  1. All residents who will see an increase in their cost of living as tolls are passed on to consumers. Particularly concerning will be the increase in the price of food and commodities which will disproportionally impact our most vulnerable residents;
  1. Small business owners who are less able to absorb the increased cost of doing business and will become less competitive.

 

Also, the Norwalk Republican Town Committee believes the increased traffic on secondary roads would adversely affect the quality of life of Norwalk’s residents in numerous ways including:

 

  1. A dramatic increase of heavy-duty commercial vehicles and tractor trailers disrupting on our scenic New England community, which would negatively impact the City’s character and atmosphere;
  1. A dramatic increase in traffic by heavy-duty commercial vehicles and tractor trailers subjecting our roads to increased damage and higher maintenance and repair costs resulting in an increased tax burden for Norwalk’s residents;
  1. Greater traffic on secondary roads, an increase in traffic accidents, and disruption of the pedestrian’s enjoyment in and around the affected roads;
  1. The traffic congestion from increased vehicles and accidents would delay the response time for emergency personnel causing significant safety concerns and compromising current safety standards;
  1. Discouraging retail businesses and shopping by placing our valued local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and increasing cost and inconvenience to Norwalk’s residents.

 

 

20 comments

Eleanor Lx March 23, 2019 at 8:13 am

I can not understand how the Democrats are pushing for tolls while at the same time approving (via committee) this week expanded free healthcare for undocumented children. It is also becoming ever so clear that the Democrat party no longer represents the middle class or citizens of CT and are shaping policy decisions to transform the state into a mass illegal immigration destination. It is also not coincidental that family crossings at the border are at record highs to take advantage of the new incentives offered by leftist states. The left’s new mantra should be illegals first and citizens second.

Mike Mushak March 23, 2019 at 9:16 am

This Republican position totally ignores reality. But then what else is new?

First, they make no mention at all of what the crowded and crumbling roads and rail lines cost our economy and all of us every year, estimated at close to $2 billion in lost time and added car repairs and fuel costs. Not to mention the additional air pollution from stalled traffic.

Tolls will reduce peak congestion by encouraging off-peak non-essential trips, and encouraging car-pooling and mass transit use.

I own a small business, and the huge losses I have to absorb in time and money because of rush hour congestion to get back and forth to customers and suppliers in southwest CT costs me way more than the tolls will. I’ve figured if I can move more freely around Fairfield County I can save over $10,000 a year in costs, when the tolls will cost me less than $300 a year based on published figures. That’s a huge benefit to small businesses like mine, which are the backbone of our economy.

Also, I get the personal satisfaction of knowing all those cars and trucks with out of state plates that surround me on the highway are paying their way, and not sticking CT residents with the bill to fix the roads they are helping clog up and destroy. CT is a gateway state to New England and therefore a “drive-through” state that right now is a burden only CT taxpayers have to bear based solely on our geography and location in the densest part of the country. It’s a matter of basic fairness.

Second, this RTC statement conveniently leaves out what the GOP plan is to fix our crumbling roads and bridges and rail lines, some of the most heavily used in the nation.

Their plan is to borrow the money from future generations, the same myopic thinking that got us into the pension mess we’re in now, which both sides of the aisle can be blamed for. The GOP wants to repeat the same mistake twice. No thanks!

The GOP plan also takes bonding money away from new schools and other essential investments, even though they pretend it won’t. It’s all a lie to sell you a another phony GOP solution, just like the Trump tax cuts that never fulfilled any of the promised business investments or growth.

And what ever happened to the infrastructure plan the GOP promised America? Remember that? Poof, just disappeared, forcing CT to have to make our own way on this.

It is clear if we don’t fix our transportation system we will continue to fall behind other states that do have tolls to fund their systems.

Third, the GOP position ignores the fact that toll locations will be planned to avoid local disruptions in denser areas, so basically getting off the highway to drive through Norwalk or Stamford will not let you avoid tolls.
And in places where tolls are in place, this avoidance of tolls on local roads has not been seen, as the time it takes is so great compared to the small amount of the individual tolls. Would you add an hour onto your trip to avoid a .75 cent toll?

Time is money. And CT is way overdue for smart tolls to help rebuild our transportation infrastructure including our rail lines, so we can compete in the 21st century.

DrewT March 23, 2019 at 10:00 am

It’s not just the Republicans but the most recent poll of Connecticut residents more then 60% OPPOSE Tolls!! And not once have you heard the words from any Democrat that maybe we should..Wait for it…CUT SPENDING!!!! WOW! What a Concept! Except the Democrats answer to just about everything is raise taxes and more taxes and even more taxes!! This madness has to stop!!! There are so many other ways we can raise revenue and cut spending. The Republicans have shown this for the last 2 Budget Cycles. But the Democrats don’t listen!! It’s eaiser to keep blaming this or that or “Income Inequality” then solving the real problems and issues. We are in very SERIOUS trouble as we have been in this state. And we need serious people to help solve them. Unfortunately we keep electeting more of the same people with the same repeated backwards thinking. We must stop the madness that is the Democratic Party or we will be lucky if we could afford a gallon of milk after all the new fees and taxes! Imagine paying $8.00 a gallon?!!! Because that’s exactly what’s coming our way.

Phyllis Corso March 23, 2019 at 11:20 am

The government thinks that we forgot that one of the reasons for implementing the CT Lottery WAS to fix the roads and highways. Meanwhile, the roads and highways have not been kept up and all the CT Lottery did was to feed the dreams of potential winners while depleting their paychecks which the majority of residents/participants CANNOT afford. Now government is even contemplating legalizing sports gambling which would deplete the salaries of other people who can’t afford it. Where is all this money being spent ???? I HIGHLY OPPOSE toll charging !!!!! Further, I would like to see an accounting of CT Lottery Funds !!!

Piberman March 23, 2019 at 11:24 am

So there’s life in our local GOP. But why not focus attention on Norwalk’s decade long stagant Grand List, declining property values and exodus of our long time residents. Other than suggesting putting GOP leaders w/o business expeience would do better than electing Democratic leaders similarly without business experience.

GOP where art thous ? Arise, arise, arise with a loud voice. If you can can. We’d like to hear from you. After the long slumber.

Bridget P March 23, 2019 at 2:26 pm

It is shameful how the left now blames road infrastructure for CT’s anemic economic multi-year stagnation rather than the high taxes and costs of being here. Connecticut is a basket case because of the failed policies of Democrats in Hartford. While the state barely survived the last governor for eight years, we have another four years of continued squeeze on CT residents under the one party radical leadership in Hartford. One not be a rocket science to understand that a toll is another tax and yet more reason why businesses and residents will leave the state. CT needs to massively cut spending and slash taxes to make the state competitive again. Tolls are not the answer and more socialism and wealth redistribution won’t lead to the promise-land!

Mitch Adis March 23, 2019 at 2:47 pm

@Mike Mushak. Can you show how you calculated your savings of $10,000 vs. $300 cost? Maybe this will help those who oppose.

I could support the notion of tolls if we remove the gas tax. Remember – the gas tax was intended for transportation infrastructure funding. Based on the current path, I could see the state having a gas tax for transportation infrastructure funding, tolls for transportation infrastructure funding and a tax based on miles driven for… Transportation infrastructure funding. How many times can we be taxed for the same thing?

John Levin March 23, 2019 at 6:30 pm

DrewT: “poll of Connecticut residents more then 60% OPPOSE Tolls!!” Yeah, well I would bet that more than 80% oppose taxes, and more than 100% OPPOSE DEATH!! Sadly, not wanting to pay your bills doesn’t mean that the bills go away. So the reality is our state has bills to pay, and frankly, I don’t really care how we pay them, just that we do pay them and that the burden is shared fairly. So, democrat or republican, if you wish to oppose any tax, or toll, that gets our bills paid, then you better be prepared to propose an alternative that gets the job done. And a demand to “CUT SPENDING!!” is similarly useless, unless you are prepared to identify exactly what is to be cut, and how. Short of that, “cut spending” is about as effective as “receive free money from somewhere” – it’s not going to result in anything and yet who wouldn’t support it?

So, democrat and republican elected officials: it’s your job to get our bills paid. If you don’t like tolls, then propose something better. Until then, I will join my CT neighbors and our out of state guests and pay tolls to get money to pay the bills. Will I enjoy it? Of course not, but it’s better than the alternative.

Mike Mushak March 24, 2019 at 8:18 am

@Mitch Adis, so you are saying if I prove to you tolls will save me money you’ll change your mind? Wow. Let’s see about that!

Oh, before I do, fuel taxes have declined and will continue to as vehicles use less fuel and hybrid and electric vehicles increase. So despite your suggestion, relying on declining fuel taxes to pay for infrastructure is not a sustainable solution. That is why tolls are being considered.

But since you asked, my small seasonal landscape contracting business costs about $200/hour to run with salaries and overhead. This is normal for any business this size. (Larger businesses obviously have much higher hourly costs so multiply the following effects accordingly.)

I sit in bumper to bumper traffic about 2 days a week, inc mornings and afternoons, or wasting on average 2 hours a day or 4 hours a week. So that’s $800/week in lost time and money due to traffic . Multiply that by 13 weeks of peak business activity (7 weeks in spring and 6 weeks in fall) and I end up with $10,400 in annual losses due to traffic. Sometimes it’s more or less depending on where my clients are, but this an average I have figured is accurate enough.

If I commuted every day on the highway like many contractors do (95 is clogged with contractor vans and trucks every day), my losses would be much greater. I’m not on the highway heading south with the peak flow every day, as sometimes I head north in the other direction with lighter traffic. Some days I don’t have to use the highway at all, as I head up into the hills. I have clients all over Fairfield and Westchester Counties, so that’s why I have to use the clogged highways a couple days a week.

Now, compare that to the cost of tolls. One published figure had a passenger vehicle toll at peak times at .05/mile, or 5 cents per mile. I have two light duty trucks and one passenger vehicle on the highway usually, and I didn’t see a published rate for light duty panel trucks, only heavy trucks which includes semis and big dump trucks, which I don’t use. . So I used the passenger vehicle rate for now as that’s all I had to go on, and many contractors have vans that would probably be the same as passenger vehicles.

I do a lot of work in Rye and Greenwich, which is an average 15-mile trip each way, or 30 miles total. I also do a lot of work in Westport and Fairfield so that’s another 2 days per week heading north for 8 miles on average instead of south, and I have to include that direction as well even though there is not much traffic in that direction at peak times. I’m not sure the tolls would be charged as “peak” in that direction, but let’s assume they are. (Off peak is a penny less per mile or
.04/mile as I recall.)

So, my total average mileage per week for 13 weeks on 95 is 92 miles, using 3 vehicles, X .05/mile. That totals $179.40 in tolls for my peak work season. I also work about another 10 weeks at two days per week on the highway instead of 4, as we are less busy then, so taking the higher Greenwich figure at 30 miles/day, that’s another $90 total for those 10 weeks.

$179.40 plus $90 equals a total annual toll charge to run my business of $269.40, or less than $300 a year in tolls.

To summarize, highway congestion costs my business more than $10,000 a year in lost time and money, and tolls would cost me less than $300/year.

If the tolls reduced highway congestion and traffic flowed more freely as predicted, tolls would then save my small business about $10,000 a year. That’s why I support tolls, and any small business who has staff and vehicles sitting
In traffic every day should as well.

In fact, considering that traffic congestion and crumbling obsolete infrastructure costs CT up to $2 billion a year in lost productivity and car repairs and fuel, I believe all Chambers of Commerce in CT would be well advised to support tolls, as they are good for the state’s economy and business community, as well as helping make CT more competitive.

At the same time, the state could finally start funding its infrastructure upgrades and maintenance to both highways and rail lines for the 21st century.

All the fear-mongering and misinformation and appeal to emotion instead of reason being pushed by Republicans will not change this reality, and their flawed plan to borrow from future generations to fix this is not a smart or sustainable plan. In fact, it’s just more financial lunacy which is what got us into the pension mess we are now in that is crippling the state.

It would be the height of stupidity to repeat that pension mistake twice, but that’s exactly what Republicans want to do by borrowing from our future to fix our infrastructure now.

RayJ March 24, 2019 at 9:15 am

Tolls are ok by me. Who should pay but those that use the roads? I’m retired, and it’s been 20 years since I commuted by highway. My family all works local. Tolls are a tax cut for seniors. Jump at the chance to have interstate truckers and yes according to the lrepublican laundry list anyone else who uses the highway pay for it. It’s a reflex reaction to oppose the tolls but if you think about it, you may be among the ones who stand to gain more than they lose.

AL March 24, 2019 at 10:58 am

The mendacious campaign supporting tolls is typical. A group of five lobbyists, all flunkies from Malloy’s inside circle, had a secret ” plan” to sell tolls.
The campaign failed but we will get tolls anyway thanks to single party rule and the money will vanish. Congestion pricing? Riiiight! Go look at the NYC bridges and tunnels…it is just another money grab by government.And look at the MTA,NJ Transit, or Mass DOT for examples of bloated “quasi government”.
I am OK with Ned having the keys to the mythical “lockbox” but HE will not have them for long, and when he is gone we could very well have another Malloy or Rowland or worse holding the “keys”.
And public-private-partnerships? Do a little research and see how those work out for taxpayers.
To Phyllis’ point…the California lottery’s (in spite of record breaking revenues) contribution to public education has remained unchanged for twelve years thanks to a “rule change” about the amount they contribute. Your toll money and sports betting income,and pot taxes too will all vanish into the gaping maw called The General Fund.

AL March 24, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Review this audit of PennDOT and thte PA. Turnpike.
https://www.paauditor.gov/Media/Default/Reports/Pennsylvania%20Turnpike%20Commission%20Audit%20Report%2003-21-19.pdf

“…the turnpike is on the road to ruin unless state lawmakers provide the turnpike some relief from the $450 million annual payments it is obligated to transfer to PennDOT through 2022 to help fund public transit agencies.”

“…the turnpike’s CEO, said the debt service payments on that borrowing now eats up about half of the $1.2 billion the turnpike collects in tolls, leaving little to make improvements to the 78-year-old toll road.”

I guess their lock box got picked!

Steve Mann March 24, 2019 at 4:53 pm

RayJ, excellently executed NIMBY stance. Bravo. The rest of us have to pay.

Maybe some people should factor in the amount of time they spend blathering falsehoods directed at their opposition into their lost revenue equation. Maybe that time can be better spent.

Bryan Meek March 24, 2019 at 5:38 pm

We have crowded, crumbling roads because the kleptocrats that Mushak supports have robbed the treasury dry. Our road construction costs are 3x the national average thanks to liberal policies that create work rules that put big labor’s interests over that of the taxpayers. It’s why we have the 3rd worst rated infrastructure in the country. We collect nearly $2 billion in petroleum taxes a year and less than a quarter of that is actually spend on our highways. Instead the kleptocrats, supported by Mushak and their friends get wealthy at our expense.

Mitch Adis March 24, 2019 at 6:35 pm

@Mike Mushak thanks for the explanation. If you read what I wrote you would know that I am not opposed to Tolls. So, no need to convince me, but I see you are quick to jump to conclusions. Also, I am not suggesting we rely on declining gas tax revenues either. In fact, I am suggesting we eliminate the failed gas tax in favor of tolls. There is one flaw in your assumption for savings. You are assuming traffic will decrease to zero. If tolls reduced traffic then why is traffic so bad in New York? How about the greater Boston area? Tolls will not curb people’s need to drive. Most of the people on the road in rush hour are there because they have to be. Maybe you will see a 10% reduction but not much more.

I could support eliminating the gas tax and implementing tolls. Anyway, be prepared for paying tolls, sitting in traffic and paying that gas tax.

Another Opinion March 24, 2019 at 9:16 pm

After reading the opinion piece, I did some research and concluded the same – tolls are a bad idea. My main opposition to tolls is the virtual monopoly the state will control in setting rates. What will be advertised as a modest fee initially will likely evolve into a major hike, similar to both the state and income tax. Combined with CT’s unconstrained spending, tolls could be the jackpot big spending politicians will perennially tap into.

It was also disingenuous for the new governor to introduce tolls to CT residents after pledging not to. This is a character issue and one that will be hard to overlook in the next election.

I have also copied and pasted an article from the National Motorist Association and counters the pollyannaish perspectives from toll advocates.

https://www.motorists.org/issues/tolls/bad-idea/

“New electronic transponder technology, like E-Zpass, is making toll roads more palatable, but that doesn’t mean toll roads are good public policy.

Toll roads are an inefficient, backwards approach to providing public highways. Worse, they foster corruption, political patronage, and discourage needed improvements on the rest of the highway system.

Don’t be fooled by the references to “free-market principles,” “proper pricing,” “supply and demand,” and “economic incentives” from those selling the for-profit roadways. The truth is, any resemblance to free-market principles is more illusion than fact.

A real market-based system has willing sellers, willing buyers, and reasonably unfettered competition.

Any highway of consequence falls flat from the get-go, when it comes to market principles.

First, highway corridors are not assembled by willing buyers in competition with other willing buyers. The state identifies the corridor it wants, establishes what it considers to be a politically and judicially acceptable price, and condemns the land of those sellers who disagree. This is market principles at the end of a gun barrel.”

Edited to remove copyrighted material. Posting excerpts from other sources is permitted; posting entire articles is not. The rest of the op-ed is available here: https://www.motorists.org/issues/tolls/bad-idea/

Bryan Meek March 24, 2019 at 10:15 pm

Tolls work when exits are miles apart or you have to cross a major river. All they will do is exponentiate local traffic issues as fewer people will use the connector or YDB to cross East to West Norwalk. Plus with Waze, they will be cutting through more neighborhoods. One can only conclude the goal is to drive real estate values into the ditch so they can be bought on the cheap and converted into more apartments. $52 million was just spent on “improvements” from exit 42 to 44. Not one person I know can tell me exactly what was improved. All we know is the DOT needs another $80 million to do more work in the same area while they were just working on it for 4 years. $52 million and they cut some trees down. That’s it. This is what is broken, not lack of revenue.

Mike Mushak March 24, 2019 at 11:02 pm

The National Motorists Association referred to by the previous anonymous commenter “Another Opinion” is a libertarian organization run by a crockpot who is against safety regulations like seatbelts, DUI laws, speed limits, and distracted driving laws, as well as tolls. They advocate fighting every traffic ticket regardless of guilt, and they dismiss the 30,000 deaths a year from speeding as a hoax.

Therefore, I would give any anti-toll opinion piece from them the attention it deserves. Which is none.

Manuel March 25, 2019 at 11:52 am

I cannot support tolls. Tolls will increase congestion on city streets and make local roads unsafe. Many drivers will also alternate to city streets to save a few dollars. This will no doubt be adverse to the local economy and pedestrian safety. Finally, cities will need to increase their budgets to accommodate the increase in traffic hurting local taxpayers.

I would urge concerned citizens to voice their opposition to our Hartford representatives. CT must regain its competitiveness without regressive fees and taxes.

james gallacher March 26, 2019 at 10:39 am

mike mushak-
you figure your opportunity cost (travel time) to get your people, equipment, product to a job site using the highway is $10.4k -> traveling 92 miles per week on 95 should take 1.67hours @55mph. are you saying the travel time that should take you 1.67 hours is taking you 2 to 4 hours more than that or 2 to 4 hours per week total?

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