Lawmakers Raise Concerns about Bringing Tolls to Connecticut

May 10, 2017

“Tolls are not the revenue savior they have been made out to be.”

Hartford – Today state lawmakers and opponents of tolling Connecticut roadways joined together at the state Capitol to explain why tolls are not a realistic solution to the state’s budget problems.

“Tolls are not a realistic option for our state to pursue to address our budget shortfalls. At this time, there is zero evidence that tolls would result in a profitable revenue stream for Connecticut,” said Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “Transportation is a public safety issue, a quality of life issue and an economic development issue. We need a reliable funding source to ensure that crumbling roads and unstable bridges get the attention they need. But tolls are not the revenue savior they have been made out to be. No study has been conducted to show if and how tolls can realistically make a profit in our state. What we do know is that the federal government won’t approve our state for border tolls. We cannot put tolls on the borders without putting our federal funding at risk and having to pay back the federal government for funds we’ve already received. We know what doesn’t work, but we have yet to see real details on what can work. As budget discussions continue I hope all lawmakers recognize that building a budget that relies on tolls with so many unknowns is a dangerous proposition that could lead our state down a road with far more debt and even bigger transportation problems.”

“To date, there have been no studies to map out if and how tolls could be profitable after factoring in construction costs, the fee structure for tolls, and people’s likelihood of using roadways with tolls,” said Deputy Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos (R-Canton).“In addition to not knowing if or how tolls could actually create a profit in our state, tolls also have the potential to be yet another costly tax on the people and businesses of Connecticut further challenging economic growth and causing prices to rise on any product transported within our state.”

Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), Co-Chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee raised concerns about who would likely be most impacted by tolls.

“The Federal Highway Administration will not approve Connecticut for border tolls,” said Sen. Boucher. “While the federal government has said it won’t cut aid to the state if Connecticut implements congestion mitigation tolls that would only be the case if those tolls are not placed on the borders – because we are not approved for border tolls. Therefore, any toll revenue would come from those traveling within Connecticut’s borders, directly hitting residents and businesses most.”

Republican lawmakers explained that studies on tolls in Connecticut thus far are based on toll prices that far exceed tolls in other places by anywhere between 2-4 times the highest rate in the country. These studies do not consider the cost at which people decide to jump off the highway to take other routes, which could happen in places such as I-95 where Route 1 runs parallel. Current studies also do not take into account how out of state drivers could plan routes around Connecticut if toll rates are set too high.

“Without a study that looks at all these factors, it is impossible to project any amount of revenue from tolls at this time,” said Sen. Fasano.  “Some people say that tolls will bring in ‘billions of dollars’ in new revenue. But those estimates are not based on a true analysis of how tolls could actually work in Connecticut.”

Toll opponents also refuted claims that out of state drivers and trucks get a “free pass” to drive through Connecticut without tolls.  According to the Motor Transport Association of CT, Connecticut netted nearly $30 million from out of state truck fleets, which pay fuel use taxes and apportioned registration fees to Connecticut.  In addition, because Connecticut does not have tolls, the state receives a higher percentage of federal funds than neighboring states as a result of gas taxes paid by individuals in all states.

“Tolls are not a panacea. There are other ways we can prioritize spending to support transportation while also living within our means that don’t require asking so much more of the residents and businesses in our state,” said Sen. Witkos.

Republican lawmakers urged fellow legislators to consider their “Prioritize Progress” transportation funding plan which provides $63 billion for transportation needs over the next 30 years without tolls or new taxes. The transportation funding plan was recently updated as part of the Republican budget proposal released last month. More details available on www.ctsenaterepublicans.com.