Senator McLachlan Details Opposition To Placing Tolls On I-84 In Danbury

March 27, 2009

Tolls Would Lead To Traffic Snarls On Local Roads & Harm Economic Development In Area

Senator Michael McLachlan (R-24) said that putting tolls on I-84 in Danbury would severely harm economic development in area communities by increasing traffic congestion on local municipal roads.

Senator McLachlan, a member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, explained his position during a bipartisan public forum held at Western Connecticut State University on March 26th to discuss the tolls issue.

“Drivers would try to bypass the tolls by driving though area communities to avoid I-84. Local roads in Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman and Ridgefield would become so snarled by traffic that people would look for detours around these towns. Local businesses would be seriously hurt. Drivers cutting through these towns to avoid tolls are not going to stop to shop or otherwise patronize these local businesses. It would be a disaster, and I will continue to fight against any proposal to place tolls on I-84 in the Danbury area,” said Senator McLachlan.

Senator McLachlan said that if the General Assembly ultimately decides to reestablish tolls in Connecticut, toll locations should be chosen to “maximize revenues and to limit negative community impacts due to bypass traffic”. During the public forum, he displayed a map pinpointing areas that would be harmed by placing tolls on I-84 in Danbury.

Senator McLachlan further explained his position by offering the following comments:

“First, the geometry of I-84 construction itself brings into question the feasibility of any toll booth being placed on I-84 at the Connecticut – New York State Line. The reason is that the eastbound exit ramp to I-84 Exit 1 in Danbury is located in New York State. Thus eastbound I-84 traffic can easily divert to parallel Route 6, making this driving decision while still in New York territory.

To close this loophole the Connecticut toll booth would need to be located well before Connecticut’s I-84 Exit 1, actually on I-84 in New York, a very unlikely situation. Once the Transportation Committee sees a map of the detailed geometry I-84 Exit 1 in relation to state lines they will readily understand your point.

It should be noted that the Danbury Fair Mall, the largest retail concentration in Connecticut, serves much of adjacent New York State. This trade area would be reshaped if a toll is imposed on the I-84 access to the Mall.

This shopping facility is a major sales tax revenue generator for the State of Connecticut. The new toll revenue might be cancelled out by the loss of business from New York State.

Any toll on I-84 in central Danbury would induce bypass traffic into nearby Downtown Danbury. Downtown Danbury is forcefully protected with a “Regional Center” designation by the Connecticut Conservation and Development Policies Plan by prohibiting state investments detrimental to the Downtown.

In 2002, the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO) and other regional organizations in the Danbury Area retained a highly respected traffic engineer to evaluate the traffic impacts associated with a potential casino development in Danbury, Connecticut.

The goal of the study was to examine the extent to which a major gaming facility would affect traffic and economic conditions in the region. The study assumed that the casino would be built on the former Union Carbide site located on the south side of I-84 between Exits 1 and 2. The construction of toll booths at the state line will create similar traffic challenges on local roads as described in the casino impact study.”