From the Rep-Am: Packed hearing tackles toll ideas

March 12, 2019

Torrington Tolls

The Republican leaders of the transportation committee are taking their concerns about tolls to the road and hosted their first of seven informational hearings on Monday in Torrington to a packed house.

State Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, and Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, spoke for more than an half-hour at Torrington City Hall to a crowd of more than 100 people.

The hearing comes on the same day that a Sacred Heart University poll found that 39.8 percent of respondents believe the expected revenue of $1 billion would be worth a $100-million investment by the state to implement tolling, 38.5 percent do not believe tolling is worth such an investment.

Also, more than half – 54.5 percent – reported they would alter their driving habits by avoiding toll roads should tolling be implemented on major highways in the state, according to a news release by the university.

The hearing focused mostly on a history of the special transportation fund as well as the toll options.

The special transportation fund, which was started by Gov. William A. O’Neill following the Mianus River Bridge collapse in 1983. The fund was funded by the gas tax, licenses and fees that the state could use to back bonding to support infrastructure renewal programs. Over the years, the legislature moved funding for the state Department of Transportation and then salary and pension costs for DOT employees to the fund followed by other departments, including the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As of January, 40 percent of the transportation fund of $1.7 billion was available to back bonding.

If tolls were approved by the legislature, there would be congestion pricing whereas there would be higher tolls during peak travel times. The peak hours are 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.

“It is designed to divert commuters to other routes,” Devlin said, “get them on a bus or get them on a train, something other than traveling in a car.”

The goal of recent studies on tolls would be for the state to raise $1.86 billion.

Devlin, who admitted she is not in favor of tolls, said previous plans call for 82 toll gantries across the state. Later, the governor’s reduced the number of toll gantries to 53 toll gantries on Instates 91, 84, 95 and the Merritt Parkway. She said the goal was still to raise $1 billion.

If toll gantries do go on Route 8, the peak cost to go from Torrington to Waterbury would be $1 a day, $5 a week and $275 a year and off peak would be $220 a year. From Torrington to Bridgeport, the cost would be $2.75 a day, $13.75 a week and $687 a year.

“The scary thing to me is that I have never seen a toll that ever went down,” Devlin said.

Devlin said there people have come together to oppose the tolls. She urged people to call or email their local representative to let them know where they stand on the issue.