The Phantom Tollbooth

Tolls are back on the table.

Politicians and gubernatorial candidates are talking about re-introducing tolls on roads like I-95.

Tolls were abolished more than 20 years ago, on I-95, the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways, and 3 Hartford-area bridges.  The impetus was a fiery truck crash at the Stratford plaza that killed 7 people.

The impetus for bringing tolls back is the opportunity to generate as much as $1 billion.

An old Merritt Parkway tollbooth is now a museum piece. Those were the days?

An argument against that is that the state may have to repay $2.6 billion in federal highway funds received for Turnpike construction projects following the abolition of tolls.

An argument in favor of reinstating tolls is that they can now be collected electronically — the  E-Z Pass way.  On some E-Z pass routes, drivers don’t even have to slow down.

An argument against is that there are always non-E-Z Pass users, so at least some tollbooths will be needed.  Where will they go?  And what will that do to already congested traffic?

An argument in favor of reinstating tolls is that they may cut down on drivers using I-95 to go just a couple of exits.  It may also lead folks to carpool to work, or take mass transit.

An argument against is that traffic may be forced onto side streets — like the Post Road, Green’s Farms Road and Bridge Street.

An argument in favor of reinstating tolls is that it will force trucking companies to pay their fair share (or at least a fairer share) of what it costs to maintain roads.  After all, tractor trailers cause a lot more wear and tear on highways than my Camry.

An argument against is that costs will rise for every business that relies on trucks.  Another counter-argument is that tolls would be one more piece of proof that Connecticut is anti-business, driving (so to speak) away even more jobs than our tax policies already have.

An argument for tolls is that they will capture funds from the many people who travel through en route to other destinations.  We are the epitome of a drive-through state.

An argument against is that the majority of drivers paying tolls will be Connecticut residents, who have no choice but to use our interstates.

An argument for tolls is that we have to find ways to fix our roads.

An argument against tolls is that there’s no guarantee politicians won’t move toll revenue around for other purposes.

An argument for tolls is that they could be used in conjunction with lowering the high gas tax — which was supposed to replace revenue lost from tolls.

An argument against that idea is that times have changed — high gas taxes are needed to limit unnecessary driving.

Arguments for and against tolls will rage for a while.  “06880” readers are invited to toss in their 2 cents, by clicking “Comments” at the top or bottom of this post.

6 responses to “The Phantom Tollbooth

  1. So create a CT-Pass, and issue it free of charge to all Connecticut taxpayers. This would allow local drivers to pass through the toll without a charge. Then only the out-of-state drive-throughs will pay for the tolls.

  2. I believe that the most “popular” proposals have all the tolls at the 7 state border crossings (95, 91, 84, 395, Merritt?), which would be most effective for capturing out-of-state dollars, and least intrusive on local business.
    That said, I don’t believe that EZ-Pass will work without “manual” lanes, and thus the net revenue to the state will be much lower than their estimates. I have not heard of any all-electronic toll systems in the US. There is one I’ve been on in Canada, but that’s on a private highway.
    If anyone knows of a functioning all-electronic system in the US, please inform your state reps, and Jim Cameron.

    • Wouldn’t “border crossing” tolls have a disproportionate impact on Fairfield County (and other border areas)? Hartford-area drivers would not be affected nearly as much.

      • Yes, to a degree. For down-county commuters, the argument will be for mass-transit. Danbury may lose some Brewster business. Conversely, it will “catch” the pass-through trucks, which would be good. And don’t ignore that this approach reduces congestion within the state (toll-booths only face traffic coming into the state).
        I read somewhere that the lead rep on this is from Rocky Hill. One might infer something from this.
        To be clear, I don’t think tolls are a good idea, and I don’t think that the proponents have done their homework well.