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House Dem Leaders: Tolling cars is off the table

HARTFORD — State Democratic legislative leaders said Tuesday that they are not going to consider tolls for passenger cars and instead are proposing to ena...

HARTFORD -- State Democratic legislative leaders said Tuesday that they are not going to consider tolls for passenger cars and instead are proposing to enact tolls on trucks.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) asked the Governor to consider truck-only tolls on 12 of the 14 bridges in the Governor’s transportation proposal CT2030. The House leadership proposal eliminates Rt. 9 (little truck traffic) and the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways which does not allow commercial vehicle traffic.

“Trucks do 80-percent of the damage to our roads and bridges and many come from out of state,” said Majority Leader Ritter. “We believe that truck-only tolls on select bridges, in a manner similar to what other states do, are legal and will provide Connecticut with the revenue stream needed to secure low interest federal transportation loans.”

Governor Ned Lamont said in a statement:

“I am appreciative of House Democrats’ thoughtful contribution to the discussion about Connecticut’s economic future and the critical need for investment in our transportation system. A guiding principle of CT2030 is a dedicated revenue stream, which in large part comes from out-of-state drivers. This proposal adheres to that basic principle, albeit to a lesser extent, but is a concept that the governor has explored in the past and one that should be considered among the other plans. Given this addition to the conversation, the plan from Senate Republicans presented last week, and a reported plan forthcoming from House Republicans, I am recommending that all caucuses be prepared to bring these proposals to a meeting in my office as soon as possible. Connecticut’s economic success is vital to our state’s future and this discussion should be had with all caucuses dedicated to creating a solution.”

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano released the following statement:

“House Democrats are welcome to bring forward whatever ideas they have. But this is not a plan, this is a concept. There are no numbers, no explanation of how the Special Transportation Fund will be made solvent, no explanation of construction costs, no indication if this is a gross or net projection, and no explanation of how this will cover the costs of needed transportation improvements. I appreciate that House Democrats want to be part of the conversation. However, Governor Lamont has already reviewed and abandoned this idea. I personally do not support tolls on trucks. I have always feared that tolls on trucks is the first step to eventually tolling cars, which is a tax increase people do not support. Senate Republicans have offered a comprehensive transportation plan with no tolls and no tax increases. We still believe that is the best way forward for our state. We welcome conversation with all caucuses and the governor.”

The group No Tolls CT said in an email, "No Tolls CT stands firmly against tolls in Connecticut, including tolls on trucks, which would raise the cost of goods and services on almost everything the people of Connecticut purchase. Gov. Lamont campaigned on truck-only tolls and then changed his mind and included all vehicles. There is little reason to think the same thing wouldn't happen again if the state began to toll trucks."

Motor Transport Association of CT President Joe Sculley released the following statement regarding plans to toll trucks only at 12 bridges in Connecticut:

“The claim that trucks do 80 percent of the damage to our roads and bridges is a made up number. There is no data to support that statement. In fact, the Federal Bridge Formula ensures that a truck cannot inherently damage a road or a bridge. In short, the bridge formula requires that a truck’s gross weight is distributed over a certain number of axles, which must be appropriately spaced, over a specified length of the truck or tractor-trailer combination. Bridge tolls on trucks only is exactly the basis of the industry’s lawsuit in Rhode Island. That case is still pending, with the latest action being that the State of Rhode Island was grilled in a federal court. Does the State of Connecticut want to waste even more time and money on something that may not be legal?”

House and Senate leaders said, "The new proposal for truck-only tolls avoids the potential legal peril that was faced by the Governor’s original plan for truck-only tolls on the interstate highway system by placing truck-only tolls on select bridges. It also heads off any concerns about tolling passenger vehicles."

It went on to say, "Under the proposal, truck-only tolling rates would be similar to rates in New York.  The Connecticut Department of Transportation has estimated that truck-only tolls could raise approximately $150 million annually."