Controversial Transportation Bills Gain Momentum

March 18, 2015

Boucher: Commuters; Life as you know it will change.

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) released the following statement on several bills that passed out of the general assembly’s Transportation Committee today. The revised bills involve several ideas including a lock box for special transportation funds, parking fees at commuter lots, taking of intangible property as a function of eminent domain and the “development of a program to establish, or commence” tolls around the entire state.

“Bringing tolls back to Connecticut is a direction we should not be going in. Tolls around the state will become another undue burden on the people who live and work in the state. Commuters; life as you know it will change. It will cost more to go to work, to the grocery store, to the doctors and to your children’s extracurricular activities.

“The public is weighing in on this issue in a big way. I have survey results conducted by my office that reveal that 82.5 % of constituents from my part of the state are against border tolls, 12 % are in favor and the other 5.5% are undecided. We have also received nearly 500 electronic testimonies in the Transportation Committee from residents throughout Connecticut so far and the numbers are growing. The vast majority are communicating that they strongly oppose tolls for the following reasons:

  • It is another tax in top of one of the highest gas taxes in the country
  • It would unfairly target Connecticut residents that work across state lines or live close to a toll and raise the cost of living and working in our state
  • Revenue projections would not be realized as the cost to build could be between $1-2 billion while they may only produce $50-75 million per year in revenues.
  • Commuters would use diversionary roads to avoid paying a toll and clog local roadways.
  • Out of state drivers may not pay. Experience in other state shows a nearly 30% nonpayment rate
  • Just using electric tolls (EZ pass) will not be allowed due to “reciprocity” with other states that would allow collection of delinquent tolls. Therefore standard toll booths cannot be avoided.
  • People do not trust that any toll revenue will be used for transportation improvements given past practice of raiding transportation funds
  • Tolls are highly unpopular, some suggest that voting for them is political suicide

“I am supportive of a “lock box” on special transportation funds for transportation needs. But past practice of swiping money from the special transportation fund to pay for the day to day bills of state government means this language will have to be clear.

“There is an alternative plan to reserve a set amount of general obligation bonds to be used solely for transportation projects, starting with $441.5 million in the upcoming 2016 fiscal year. This plan may be the better route for Connecticut. Why go to tolls first?

“The republican crafted plan 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. Prioritizing infrastructure that lasts 50 to 100 years is the right reason for bonds, not yearly operating cost or to close budget holes.wi

“It will provide a predictable and sustainable funding stream of $1 billion a year for road, bridge, rail, bus and port improvements for 30 years without adding tolls or raising the gas tax, or other taxes.

“We cannot rely principally on the federal government to pay for the maintenance and upgrade of Connecticut’s infrastructure. We need to look inside and set priorities.”

The Republican “Prioritize Progress” plan also looks to re-establish the Transportation Strategy Board to identify the most urgent needs and rank projects for funding.

Senator Toni Boucher is the ranking member of the Transportation Committee.