I support the draft tolling legislation, LCO No. 373, because it makes the big (Class 8 and above) trucks pay for using our highways. These trucks, when fully loaded, put vastly greater wear and tear on our infrastructure as compared to cars. Class 8 trucks are generally long haul and full of merchandise being delivered to destinations outside of Connecticut. It is time we collected our fair share of road maintenance user fees as all the other states between Maine and Florida have had doing for years now.
Limiting this bill to Class 8 trucks enables Connecticut to collect just over $175 million to leverage much more Build America federal infrastructure funds that require a match from the state. The more businesses who own and lease large trucks are forced to internalize the costs they impose on the Connecticut Department of Transportation through using Connecticut’s public highway system, the more they will find ways to economize. Connecticut needs to use electronic tolling to make all of our lives easier by incentivizing businesses to make our highways less of a bottleneck. Congestion pricing, setting a great difference in price of tolls at peak and non-peak times of day causes trucks to shift their schedules to travel at non-peak hours and relieve congestion during peak hours. The way it is now is not acceptable. In addition, businesses considering relocating to Connecticut (and bringing high paying tech jobs) have cited traffic congestion as one of the factors that make them hesitate. Quality of life is important for everyone in the state.
Early in my career, I was an air quality transportation planner. My job was funded under the Clean Air Act to support bicycle lanes, ride sharing through van pools, and greater use of public transit systems in the Midstate region surrounding Middletown. Forty years later, little has changed in Connecticut. Our transportation system is still woefully dependent on cars and trucks.
If Connecticut is to address climate change and the risks to public health from air pollution, we must do better. Air pollution endangers the health of children, the elderly, asthma, lung and heart disease sufferers as well as those living in urban and rural areas near highway hotspots of chronic traffic congestion along Route 95 and the Merritt Parkway. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that aggravates cardiac and lung disease when in high concentrations in the air. More carbon monoxide is created when cars are idling in traffic. I am a virtual employee with a home office but when I see the traffic jams daily on the Merritt Parkway near my home, I think we need to make a change in how people commute.
Having a 40-year business career primarily with NYC based companies in finance, I believe in the market economy – but the market has failed us in making commuters sit in traffic every morning and evening commute, generating pollution while wasting energy (and we’re not even having fun!). We must use government to speed the transition to the lower carbon future we all need to survive climate change.
With funding from this bill, improvements will be made in the Metro-North train system to bring the commute to New York back under an hour from Norwalk to New York City. These rail
improvements will support improved property values. Higher property values support better quality schools and stronger cities and towns.
When NYC or Westchester County residents consider relocating to Connecticut, they often choose a community within a radius of a one-hour trip to Grand Central Station. More of Connecticut needs to be included within that one-hour commute through decreasing traffic congestion on our major highways and making additional investment in both the New Haven and the Danbury Lines of Metro-North with frequent rail service to accommodate flexible work schedules. If we want higher property tax revenues to support Connecticut’s municipalities, connecting our labor market to New York City’s, one of the strongest engines of the U.S. economy, plays a role in buttressing our economy. It provides greater job opportunity and decreased unemployment for Connecticut residents if they can get to the city quickly and reliably. When employees can work a full-time job and still get home before their kids are asleep everyone benefits. Quality of life is important for the mental and physical health of the whole family.
Tolling Class 8 trucks should be just the beginning. I was in a meeting with a high school kid from Norwalk who said the Governor’s plan for zero carbon emissions by 2040 is not fast enough. It needs to be 2030 that we achieve 100 percent renewables. I have two kids in their early 20s. Their generation feels the urgency of the imminent disaster of climate change if we don’t take action to reverse it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Pass Draft Bill LCO #373 and do more next year to make our transportation system cleaner, more efficient and more climate responsive.
I love living in Connecticut and believe that better days are ahead if we improve our roads and begin to create an economy that works for more of the people who live here and less for the people who crusade against any state initiative. It is time for Connecticut to move forward with passing an Act Concerning the Sustainability of Connecticut’s Transportation Infrastructure.