Sen. Kissel to oppose border toll proposal at Wednesday public hearing (Journal Inquirer)

February 24, 2015

Public hearing Wednesday on border toll proposal

By Mike Savino Journal Inquirer | Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

HARTFORD — Lawmakers representing towns along the Massachusetts border say they will oppose a proposal for border tolls when the bill goes to a public hearing Wednesday.

The bill is part of the Transportation Committee’s public hearing, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

The bill, introduced by the committee, would authorize the Department of Transportation commissioner to “initiate any actions necessary for the establishment and commencement of operations of electronic tolling” along the state’s borders.

The commissioner’s responsibilities would include working with the Federal Highway Administration to ensure that any tolls don’t affect federal money coming to the state.

But lawmakers representing towns such as Enfield and Suffield said the bill places an unfair burden on them.

“Many people in north-central Connecticut drive to Massachusetts on a daily basis for work or errands,” Sen. John A. Kissell, R-Enfield, said. “Putting a toll on Connecticut’s northern border would unfairly penalize them.”

Kissel’s district also includes Somers, Suffield, Windsor Locks, and Granby.

Reps. Tami Zawistowski, R-East Granby, and David W. Kiner, D-Enfield, also voiced opposition to the bill.

Kiner said that placing tolls on the border would shift traffic from Interstate 91 onto local roads and Route 5, which runs parallel to the interstate from New Haven to Vermont.

“You don’t have to be local to know the short cuts,” Zawistowski said in agreement, adding global-positioning systems can help drivers avoid tolls.

She also said local roads aren’t designed to handle the additional traffic, including the possibility of freight trucks.

Rep. David Alexander, D-Enfield, also has raised similar concerns.

While lawmakers express their opposition to border tolls, their stance on tolls in general varies.

Zawistowksi opposes tolls in general, while Kiner said he would wait “until there is actually a proposal” before deciding whether to support tolls statewide.

During his budget speech last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for a study on ways to fund transportation upgrades.
He and his budget chief, Benjamin Barnes, said the state’s Special Transportation Fund won’t be able to maintain the state’s current infrastructure, let alone upgrade it, as revenue from taxes on gas continue to decline because of improved fuel efficiency.

But Malloy also reiterated during his address that he wouldn’t approve any new revenue sources, including tolls, without legislation requiring the income goes only toward transportation.