Fairfield state reps weigh in on tolls
FAIRFIELD — Tolls have been a topic of discussion in Connecticut for over a decade, but Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget plan is a first step toward implementing them in coming years.
This was not received warmly by Fairfield Republican state representatives.
“I was disappointed by the governor’s flip-flop, if you will,” said state Rep. Laura Devlin, R-134. “I didn't really believe the proposal for the ‘trucks-only’ tolling was realistic but I was really disappointed to see him come out supporting tolls across our state.”
While running for governor, Lamont said he supported a trucks-only tolling system.
His budget plan for the upcoming two fiscal years presented Wednesday, however, also proposes a broad tolling system.
According to a budget presentation, a broad tolling system would bring in $800 million in revenue and include an estimated 53 toll gantries on interstates 84, 91 and 95, as well as the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways. Tolls would cost $213 million to implement and construction would be slated to begin by 2022.
An alternative, trucks-only tolling system, would have 50 to 100 toll gantries and bring in between $184 to $334 million in revenues.
State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-133, said she was looking at the issue of funding transportation and maintenance from a mathematical perspective in the long-term.
“What is very clear is that the gas tax revenue is flat and declining,” Vahey said. “Many constituents have talked to me about the issue of fairness and that other drivers using our roads are not paying and supporting that maintenance.”
State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, said tolls wouldn’t be an immediate “panacea to our transportation ills.”
When asked about solutions, Hwang said he was open to exploring public private partnerships and a prioritization of transportation projects through the Legislature.
State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-132, said tolls would affect commuters who use the highways daily.
“These are working people, teachers, nurses, first responders who go to the towns they work in. ... It’s a lot of money to get to and from work,” Kupchick said.
Devlin, Kupchick, Vahey and Hwang are members of their respective transportation committees in the House and the Senate.
Republicans are currently the minority party in both chambers of the General Assembly.
Devlin and state Sen. Henri Martin, R-31, the ranking members of the House and Senate Transportation Committee, respectively, have invited the public to attend an informational forum on tolls at the Fairfield Board of education Building on Feb. 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Fairfield Republicans have decried Lamont’s proposal on tolls as another tax.
“All I have heard from the Democrats is an endless list of new taxes and not one single cost cutting measure of any significance,” said James Millington, chairman of the Republican Town Committee.
Fairfield Democrats noted that tolls would be a reliable and sustainable way to fund the state’s infrastructure projects.
“Connecticut infrastructure including roads, bridges and Metro-North need major improvements and will be very costly,” said Steven Sheinberg, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee.