Transportation: Border Tolls will Create Mayhem

February 25, 2015

Hartford, CT – Senator Scott Frantz (R-Greenwich) and a member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee challenged the idea that border tolls or tolls of any sort in Connecticut would be a good idea. The committee held a public hearing today at the legislative office building in Hartford.

“You are going to have back-ups of drivers seeking to avoid a toll on the exit ramps on I-95 and absolute mayhem if this body approves border tolls, said Sen. Frantz. “There are also dangers as speeding motorists come around a sweeping corner on I-95 northbound into Connecticut. We could see the same catastrophe that we saw years ago in Stratford at the toll plaza.”

In the mid 1980’s a tractor-trailer crashed through a toll lane and hit three vehicles waiting to pay the toll. That accident resulted in the death of seven people. Connecticut’s legislature approved removing tolls on state highways and bridges shortly after the deadly accident. Toll collection ultimately ended for drivers on I-95 in Oct. 9, 1985.

During the public hearing Senator Frantz asked Patrick Jones, the Executive Director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) whether border tolls would raise the amount of money the proponents of the bill suggest? The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) is the worldwide association representing toll facility owners and operators and the businesses that serve them.

Jones testified it would be beneficial for the state to commission a traffic and revenue study to find out the local impact on streets. He also suggested the study generate models to show the state decision makers what border tolls could look like.

“When you have cars trying to unload on local streets to get around tolls, that traffic wreaks havoc on local businesses, and families have difficulty getting kids to school on time. I am very concerned,” remarked Sen. Frantz.

Frantz also raised the equity of border tolls versus tolls in state as well.

Patrick D. Jones, Executive Director and CEO of IBTTA stated if tolling is a viable funding option you need to do some critical studies that would look at different models of how to toll.

According to the Office of Legislative Research tolls on I-95, the parkways and the three bridges in the state raised approximately $72.3 million during the last full year of each’s operations.

Operating costs were approximately $13.4 million, leaving overall net revenue of approximately $60 million. This net figure did not include personnel and administrative costs of approximately $6 million to $7 million.

Senator Frantz is supportive of a measure to “lock the box” on any revenue put into the Special Transportation Fund for roads, bridges and rail.

Recently, Republicans proposed a plan to reserve a set amount of general obligation bonds to be used solely for transportation projects. The plan starts with $441.5 million in the upcoming 2016 fiscal year. It also recommends the state continue to issue an average of $600 million in special tax-backed bonds that are used to fund the Department of Transportation’s capital program.

This combination of bonding will provide a predictable and sustainable funding stream of $1 billion a year for road, bridge, rail, bus and port improvements for 30 years. The plan also proposes to re-establish the Transportation Strategy Board to identify the most urgent needs and rank projects for funding.

After today’s public hearing the bill continues on in the legislative process and can be moved to the next committee of cognizance for example; the Finance Committee.