Lamont Unveils Tolls Plan; Republicans Push Back | Connecticut Public Radio

Lamont Unveils Tolls Plan; Republicans Push Back

Apr 10, 2019

After months of uncertainty the debate over tolls finally has some numbers to work with. Wednesday, the Lamont administration unveiled the plan they'd put in place -- if they can get the legislature to agree.

The governor's office said there will be no more than 50 tolling gantries in the state, and they would only be placed on Interstates 84, 91, 95 and the Merritt Parkway.

There would be discounts for Connecticut drivers and for frequent users. If you're both, you'd pay 4.4 cents a mile under the plan.

In terms of specific commutes, the administration said that means that from New Haven to Hartford on I-91, a driver would pay $1.72; from Stamford to New Haven on I-95, the bill would come to $1.80; from Danbury to Waterbury on I-84, $1.28.

Out-of-state drivers are expected to contribute 40 percent of toll revenue, which, in total, is estimated to generate about $800 million annually for the state. That money would be used for transportation infrastructure projects.

Governor Ned Lamont said Wednesday he's working on fast-tracking the process with the federal Transportation Department, which has to approve the final plan.

"These are old, old, old infrastructure, which is, we're keeping an eye on it, we're fixing it -- patch patch patch -- costing us tens of millions of dollars by the way," he said.

Republicans and Democrats both agree that roads and bridges need repair. But the parties disagree on how to pay for it.

The GOP has a plan to redirect existing bonds to pay for transportation projects, calling tolls a tax on the middle class.

Lamont says with tolls, at least some revenue will come from out-of-state residents, which shifts the burden a little. Bonds, on the other hand, "out-of-staters don't help you with that. Out-of-staters don't pay 40 percent of that," the governor said. "You and your kids will pay 100 percent of that. It's the wrong way to go."

The state would still have to borrow against future toll revenues to pay for immediate projects, though. That's because even if tolls are fast-tracked at the federal level, it would still be at least two or three years before they're installed.

Republicans almost immediately fired back at the governor's plan. Senate Republican leader Len Fasano said called Lamont's assumptions "outrageous."

“How disrespectful could you be to the people of the state of Connecticut by saying, ‘Give us the authority and then we’ll tell you how much, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it,’” he told a press conference.

Democratic lawmakers have three different toll bills that still need to be reconciled and voted on before anything moves forward. Most Republicans remain opposed to tolls.