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Why we need tolls now

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We need tolls now, and here’s why:

  • The Merritt Parkway and Interstate 95 are like parking lots between 5-7 p.m., Monday through Friday. If drivers (40% of whom are from out of state) have to pay to drive on these highways, there will be less congestion. The Connecticut General Assembly and State Senators need to do the right thing and approve tolls (44 cents per 10 mile trip is the proposed cost of a toll between Stamford and New Haven) to unclog our highways and prevent us all from wasting time, literally and figuratively fuming in traffic (an estimated $1.2 billion in time cost per year on Connecticut highways alone). Tolls will help us have more free time. This is like lowering a “time tax” on all of us who sit in traffic.

  • NOT GETTING WHERE WE WANT TO GO is bad for our economy. Business leaders don’t choose to relocate large corporate facilities in places with inadequate infrastructure that doesn’t work to get people back and forth to work timely. If we can improve our traffic congestion problem more businesses will choose Fairfield County and other communities.
  • Governor Lamont’s plan provides a 20% discount to anyone who earns less than $32,000 (125% of the federal poverty line) and lowers bus fares from $1.75 to $1 for transit riders. There will also be a 30% discount for in-State drivers and a 20% discount for Commuters. These actions are progressive, not regressive.
  • Tolls combat climate change by encouraging people to think twice before they drive on the highway. Cars work best at 40 miles per hour. We waste gas when we speed or go slower while stuck in stop and go traffic.
  • The State Republican plan relies on Connecticut bonding for transportation while the Governor’s plan for tolls allows us to “pay as we go.” If you have a Republican legislator, please call them now to voice your support for tolls. Our state, known for steady habits, should make users pay now through tolls (just as our neighbors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have done for decades) and save our bonding capacity for a rainier day. This vote may come up soon in the “special session” in Hartford. Call your State Representative and State Senator now to support this common sense choice to pay for our roads with tolls!

 

As a former air quality/transportation planner for Mid-State Regional Planning Agency in Middletown and former municipal investment banker for Paine Webber, Inc., I ask you to consider these points.
We need tolls!

Diane Keefe

Norwalk

33 comments

M Murray June 23, 2019 at 8:13 am

1. The author apparently hasn’t driven between 5-7pm on I-95 in New York and New Jersey where both states have tolls. It has done nothing to clear the roads of traffic. But in CT, I guess people will just leave work 3 hours early or stay at work 3 hours past the end of their shift to make her theory about reduced rush hour traffic work.
2. Businesses are leaving because of higher taxes, more business regulations, and a government that raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour for even the most basic, unskilled labor position. It is increased costs that drive business out of the state, not the lack of tolls. As far as infrastructure, if the state used the highest gasoline tax in the country just on bridges and roads, we wouldn’t need tolls. Add in car registration fees, useless emission test fees (what percentage of cars actually fail), and other DMV charges, and there is plenty of money to repair the highway system.
3. Discounts for bus riders and transit riders? Why would you want to charge toll money to fix roads and then use it to supplement other forms of transportation? Let busses and trains be self supporting. Why would some be charged more than others to use the same road. It is a political stunt. See how long that will last. The toll is like any other tax. Once it is in place, it will only go up and any of these incentives to entice or lure people to change their minds will only go away. Remember Connecticut’s temporary income tax??? When was the last time you saw the income tax rate, or any other state’s tolls go down?
4.Tolls don’t really encourage people to think twice before they drive. People drive because they need to get somewhere. When was the last time someone said “I have to go to work today, but there are tolls. Let me think again about going to work.”?
Support legislators who are standing strong against another tax against the people. Call you legislators and tell them “NO TOLLS”!! We pay enough in gasoline taxes to fix the infrastructure. Stop diverting that money to other areas and the roads will pay for themselves.

Mike Lyons June 23, 2019 at 8:49 am

The original tolls put up when I-95 was built were for the purpose of paying off the construction bonds. When the bonds were paid, the tolls stayed up, and the money went straight into the general fund – where it was spent on everything BUT road maintenance. Anyone who thinks this legislature won’t again grab the money from the new tolls for the general fund instead of roads must already be smoking the marijuana the legislative leaders want to legalize.

Piberman June 23, 2019 at 9:26 am

Traffic is utterly horrendous in and around Miami, NYCity, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles – the nation’s most vigorous booming cities. So much for the argument we need tolls ! CT remains the nation’s only State with a decade long stagnant economy/employment by virtue of its egregious taxes. Tolls are just another tax. So bring on the tolls and watch CT further decline. Tolls would just add to our hostile business climate.

The question our part time Legislators ought to ask is how do we encourage major business to invest and bring good new jobs to CT. Not make more costly to do business here.

Of course if CT had vigorous cities with good jobs we wouldn’t be having this discussion But almost 1/3rd CT’s population live in our severely depressed major cities.

If the last Governor’s race illustrated anything worthwhile its that none of the candidates were well informed on what’s needed to restore CT’s economy. So we rely on the “tax and spend” that has destroyed our economy. Tolls are just another tax.

Non Partisan June 23, 2019 at 9:29 am

We don’t have a problem of not enough revenue
We have a problem of too much spending.
Control the spend, then ask me for more money.

Start with state employee unions and then reverse our sanctuary state/ city policies. And then dgo on the debt diet for everything except roads/ infrastructure and schools.

Mitch Adis June 23, 2019 at 9:30 am

So let me get this straight. If we put in tolls traffic will magically go away? Is this because people will quit their jobs and stay home instead of paying $1? Doesn’t make sense. If we get tolls back people will continue to drive to work and we will have traffic. Only difference is drivers will have $1 less.

I support reinstalling tolls. However, we need to eliminate the taxes that were put into place to replace the lost toll revenue. We need to make sure the toll money is used for roads.

Gail Berritt June 23, 2019 at 9:57 am

I completely agree with the author about the need for tolls in CT. She has obviously done her homework. I would encourage readers who want to see CT prosper for themselves and their children to call all of their legislators, Republican and Democratic, and urge a special session to vote in favor of tolls.

Adolph Neaderland June 23, 2019 at 10:18 am

Tolls are a tax!
The very last thing CT residents need is another tax.
I see nothing wrong in taxing en-route traffic, cars and trucking (large and small, proportionately) for non CT traffic.
CT resident commuters should be toll free.
But – carefully planned controls are required to prevent trucking companys from obtaining CT resident status.

However, I have little faith in our ability to craft and implement such a foolproof system with current incumbents.

Non Partisan June 23, 2019 at 1:12 pm

@ Adolph

Unfortunately you can’t toll only out of state trucks. We have this little thing called the constitution of the United States and interstate commerce laws.

Steve Mann June 23, 2019 at 1:38 pm

Frankly,it’s tough enough to sit in traffic, but much more annoying to find out the reason thereof. I spent an hour and a half on the Merritt on Tuesday last week from Norwalk to Stamford. The reason? Stuffed animals littering the road at exit 33, likely debris left from an accident. This is not uncommon. How many times have you, the people who actually leave town once in awhile, sat in bumper to bumper traffic, only to find that the back up is due to rubbernecking of something on the other side of the highway?

The productivity that’s lost to people’s stupidity could float an entire country. Sadly, intelligence cannot be legislated, nor discouraged by charging a toll. Stop texting, putting on makeup, multitasking while driving and being so damned self-important, and a lot of traffic will disappear.

Vicki Volper June 23, 2019 at 3:29 pm

I agree with the writer that tolls are the way to go. Some commenters question whether commuters will change their work schedules to avoid tolls. Of course not. It’s the other drivers who may change their driving plans and thereby ease the congestion for commuters. Tolls are not a tax. They are a user fee just like a ticket to ride the rails. Moreover, those with concerns about toll funds going into general funds have not followed this issue. In the last election with voted in favor of a referendum requiring a lock box for these funds that did not previously exist.

Otto Delupe June 23, 2019 at 5:15 pm

From this line “If drivers (40% of whom are from out of state) have to pay to drive on these highways, there will be less congestion” the author must mean to convey that of course none of that congestion would work it’s way to Route 1/CT ave or any of the local neighborhoods. People still have to go work everyday, adding another tax layer changes nothing but the amount of cash in the greedy politicians pockets.

Steve June 23, 2019 at 6:28 pm

Having just drove from ct thru Maine I can confirm we are the only northeastern state that doesn’t have tolls. We would get loads of out of state revenue thru the tolls. It would also benefit cities like norwalk where many people commute in from out of town on free roads, and make it more likely they’d choose to reside in Norwalk . Sorry there is no free lunch and there are no free roads, Let’s have the people that use the roads the most, pay the tax. And let’s not be suckers, paying in to every other state but then having them drive thru ct for free.

carol June 23, 2019 at 7:52 pm

we desperately need tolls. our roads are in dangerous conditions as are our bridges.
do we need another disaster of a bridge falling before people wake up to the fact safety requires money. put on your lock box,do what ever you have to do to install tolls

Bonita Messman June 23, 2019 at 9:35 pm

I agree with Diane Keefe. TOLLS ARE THE BEST OPTION!
No one denies that there is an infrastructure crisis in CT. 57% of public roads are in poor condition; 338 bridges are rated as structurally deficient. No one wants a repeat of the Mianus Bridge collapse, but that is where we are headed if nothing is done soon.
As someone else stated, a toll is not a tax; it is a user fee. It would be a new revenue source that is shared by everyone who uses our roads — including 40% who are out of state. Why should out of state drivers use our roads for free while we pay tolls to use their roads. Check out the toll revenues obtained in just one year(2016):
New Jersey $1.57 billion
Pennsylvania $1 billion
New York $708 million
Massachusetts $395 million
Maine $134 million
New Hampshire $131 million
Rhode Island $20 million
Connecticut $0
Why should we keep missing out on revenues like this, with 40% coming from out-of-state drivers? Introducing tolls–with an already passed mandate that the revenue MUST be used for transportation and infrastructure–is the best solution for the long term safety and health of our beautiful state.

Peter Torrano June 23, 2019 at 10:08 pm

The tolls are coming. Can’t stop it. It’s now just a matter of putting spin on why this is the best thing for Connecticut. It’s what will save us we’re told.
The question that can’t be answered is what’s coming next?
We needed the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history a couple of budgets ago to get the state in the black. The politicians did that on our behalf because, well, we needed that. Then the politicians said all was well.
But then, the following budget produced a similar huge tax increase because, by golly, if Connecticut taxpayers could just pony up just that one more time, boy, everything would be just grand.
And this time around we won’t call it a tax. We’ll call it tolls that magically, through the forced donation to our state coffers from those dang out-of-staters, and with just a little from every Nutmeg citizen will surely resolve our financial crisis. Yup, that’s the ticket. This time our leaders in the democrat party will do what’s right. They will put the extra revenue into that mythical lock box and only (not kidding this time, cross their hearts) not use it for anything but roads. Well maybe for Union benefits and raises for politicians, but that’s it. Promise! Oh, wait. Maybe for some other things too, but only a few. Maybe for another bus route upstate for the many people (both of them) who need them. But that’s all. Promise!
So, what’s next year’s budget going to need, new tax-wise? Let’s start the guessing game now. Maybe if we just add a nickel tax to every pack of chewing gum next time, or to cabbages, that will get Connecticut straight.
Sorry that I won’t be able to contribute. Like so many of my fellow Norwalk and Connecticut friends and neighbors I’ve moved. Living in South Carolina now. Paying 1/4 of the taxes I did before on a bigger house. Paid $1.98 for gas today. Going to the beautiful Isle of Palms beach tomorrow, then to downtown Charleston for dinner after that.
Won’t have to pay a toll on any of the roads I’ll be traveling.
I do miss my friends in Norwalk. But many of them are here living around me anyway. More are coming. Wonder why?

Mike Lyons June 23, 2019 at 10:49 pm

Re this comment from Vicki Volper – “Moreover, those with concerns about toll funds going into general funds have not followed this issue. In the last election with voted in favor of a referendum requiring a lock box for these funds that did not previously exist.”

True. But as former State Senator Boucher points out in a nearby article, “The voters passed a constitutional amendment to lockbox all transportation funds to protect them from diversion. However, the budget diverts $170 million in new car sales tax slated for special transportation to the general fund. So much for the lockbox!”

We don’t have to speculate on whether the toll money going into the ‘lockbox’ will be diverted to the general fund – the legislature is already diverting money from it!

Joe June 24, 2019 at 1:02 am

It’s not funny how history repeats itself.

In 1990, Greenwich snob Gov. Weicker, heir of the Bristol Meyers Squib fortune callously
saddled the hard working people of Connecticut with one of the highest income taxes in the country.

Now, Greenwich snob Lamont, great grandson of JP Morgan’s partner who followed Morgan himself as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Morgan Bank is thoughtlessly saddling us with more tolls than any other state in the union.

https://pharmaphorum.com/views-and-analysis/a-history-of-bristol-myers-squibb/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_W._Lamont

Al Bore June 24, 2019 at 7:36 am

Tolls will mean another tax that CT residents now have to pay to sit in traffic, we will no longer be able to sit in traffic for free. State government will get to spend more money on everything except for what the tolls are being set up to pay for the roads. Does this mean our current gas tax that is supposed to pay for the roads now and does not will go away, no it won’t. How about trying to spend less on the state payroll and pensions, lot’s of savings there. Diane Keefe we need responsible spending not more taxes and we must hold our hold our government accountable for every penny of our tax money. Give them money and they will spend it in more foolish ways than you ever thought possible. CT is a poorly managed tax and spend state.

AL June 24, 2019 at 7:47 am

The secret cabal of failed Malloy lobbyists put a plan together to “sell” tolls. The plan failed, very much like Malloy did as governor.
Tolls are another money grab by Hartford.Period.
If Ned were honest,he would place tolls at the borders only but that is not possible without giving up federal revenue.
Every pro-toll defense is just more empty rhetoric.
Just say no to tolls.

Bryan Meek June 24, 2019 at 10:24 am

Tolls combined with technologies like Waze and Google maps promises to destroy neighborhoods all up and down lower Fairfield County. Before, we could just count on US1 being clogged. Now these drivers will be zipping through our neighborhood side streets.

But the real reason we need tolls is because there is no other revenue left to grab and we are facing multi-billion dollar deficits for the next several years. The revenue forecasts are bogus as they have been for the last 10 years…..not one has been realized and yet some actually still believe them as if they are gospel. The money will not go into roads. It will go into pension plans.

And if you didn’t hear, we just passed a bill that rewards state workers who report waste in government. In the private sector, people just do this as part of their jobs…..In Hartford we need a law for people to do their jobs. Incredible.

Cecillia Andy June 24, 2019 at 10:55 am

I’m afraid tolls are a false narrative to the promise-land and an unnecessary big labor giveaway. The state must focus on its high cost structure given the wealth fleeing the state will far exceed any additional annoyance revenues tolls will collect.

Per the Hartford Courant, “Those who moved out of Connecticut from 2015 to 2016 took with them more than $6 billion in adjusted gross income, or AGI. People who moved to Connecticut brought with them only about $3.36 billion in AGI. The total net loss to Connecticut: $2.7 billion. In one year. That was in the top five of all states, regardless of population.

Connecticut realized $6.85 billion in income tax from the 2015 tax year, or 4.3 percent of the $161 billion in AGI reported from all filers. If that same ratio held true in 2016, then the loss of $2.7 billion in AGI would have meant an actual loss of more than $100 million in income tax revenue.”

https://www.courant.com/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-tax-migration-0102-20180102-story.html

Ed June 24, 2019 at 10:56 am

With each new tax increase, the politicians say the state needs more money to fix budget shortfalls. Now we have another potential tax increase, which in theory we don’t need given the previous tax increases.

While we do need to pay for the roads somehow through a gas tax or something else, I don’t trust that the state–the current party in power–to use the toll revenue to pay for the roads.

Isabelle Hargrove June 24, 2019 at 3:32 pm

The vast majority of CT residents do not support tolls, regardless of party affiliation. Residents are right to be concerned about the imposition of tolls.

There are many reasons to oppose tolls as so many commenters have rightfully argued. But the #1 reason tolls are a very bad idea for CT is that we cannot allow the creation of a new behemoth infrastructure. ConnDot administrative costs are 9 times the national average per mile. Overall costs per mile are 4 times the average. Therefore, this new infrastructure will be the most expensive to build and maintain in the country. Costs will run amok.

Also, we would be creating a new state commission with sole discretion over toll rates. Unelected bureaucrats will decide how much to charge us. Can we all guess what will happen, especially under the pressure from point #1? Anyone who commutes on MetroNorth has experienced the same dynamics. Endlessly rising fares with no apparent benefits to users. A vicious circle no one can control. Within 5 years, we will have the most expensive toll fares in the country, yet net revenues will continue to come under projections.

Finally, while pro-tollers continue to brag about out-of-state drivers, 70% of tolls will be paid by Connecticut residents- a $500 million tax increase. Also, 30% of out of state toll charges go unpaid, raising toll costs and creating another administration to chase delinquents.

A better idea to fund transportation needs would be to not have a budget that diverts $729 million by 2024 in car sales taxes designated for the Special Transportation Fund into the general fund! Stop stealing transportation $ and cut spending other places.

Marija Bryant June 25, 2019 at 9:55 am

I don’t see what the big deal is about tolls. I’ll pay the small amount when I need to use the highway. As far as I know, nobody in Westchester or NJ or Mass has gone broke because of tolls on the roads. And neighborhoods have not been destroyed by rampant cut-throughs (at least, no more than current CT drivers trying to avoid congestion on I-95). IF people find the tolls onerous, maybe they can share the cost by car-pooling. In terms of businesses locating here, I doubt that the decision rests on “hey, CT doesn’t have tolls.” If it improves pubic transportation, it might encourage more people to use the trains for inter-CT trips. OR maybe increase ridership on the Danbury line. Or maybe add a train stop in the Wall Street area. Seems to me that the potential benefit outweigh the concerns raised by the nay-sayers.

Hello I Must Be Going June 25, 2019 at 9:59 am

Joe, it’s also worth noting that Greenwich snob and former CT Governor Lowell Weicker now lives in…drumroll please…FLORIDA. Along with other former CT governors who currently spend their CT taxpayer-funded pensions in the Sunshine State.

You can’t make this stuff up.

John ONeill June 25, 2019 at 10:35 am

Why have our representatives in Hartford diverted away $2 billion dollars (that’s B as in Billion) from the Transportation fund over the past 12 years if our infrastructure has needed it? — They were arrogant enough to move $200 million away from Transportation with this year’s budget while sounding the alarm on tolls. IS the world upside down? Our legislators have proven time and time again their promises are worthless. If they pass tolls, current funds designated for roads will be diverted away from infrastructure. Any politician who says otherwise is a liar. Recent history has proven this. In order to keep feeding their spending addiction, Hartford will need to become more creative. This year’s advertising campaign on tolls is just their latest tool. —

Hugh Sling June 25, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Weicker and the other CT ex-pats in FL will be amng the first to get washed away when the glachiers melt and the seas rise.

Frank Farricker June 25, 2019 at 7:30 pm

As a liberal Democrat, I cannot understand for the life of me why my party supports tolls in Connecticut. Tolls are a highly regressive form of tax which will fall extremely heavily on those at the lowest and most vulnerable income levels. The national cashless tolling system is also built on revenue from speeding fines, late payments and usurious interest charges that would result in the end having the state assume the role of payday lender for the desperate who just want to get to work. The tolling plans proposed in Connecticut bear no relationship to those in the other states proponents cite, in our part of the state, 95 and the Merritt might as well be local roads, as our towns and cities have been built to integrate them into our east-west travel. Now we would all have to pay, likely significantly more than those in the rest of the state just to go to work. If you want to fix the roads, have the balls to raise taxes and make things equitable, but since we don’t trust the money will go to where it is alleged to need to go, there would be no calculus to act at all. Tolls will make things far worse, unless you think the amounts at risk are just pennies to you.

Steve Mann June 26, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Marija , it IS a big deal. Plenty of us don’t have the luxury of only occasional highway usage. The first stop of my day is often an hour away. How about this? Pick a road you travel on regularly, and imagine have to cough up a buck every time you use it. Those who do have a choice are our politicians who refuse to exercise fiscal responsibility.

Dawn July 1, 2019 at 7:18 am

And you can bet our majority party
(Bob duff) has built in a free lifetime E-ZPass for themselves so they will never pay a toll. Pleeese. They are doing the people’s work.

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