Let’s Talk Tolls

Talk of reinstating tolls on Connecticut highways has bubbled up for a while.

Now it’s reached full boil.

A bill to begin establishing electronic tolls at the state’s borders has been introduced. The full text — sent by State Senator Toni Boucher to her constituents — is below.

Toll plazas were a familiar scene on I-95 30 years ago. A proposed bill would establish electronic (E-Z Pass) tolls.

Toll plazas were a familiar scene on I-95 30 years ago. A proposed bill would establish electronic (E-Z Pass) tolls.

Boucher says that a public hearing is set for Wednesday, February 25 (10:30 a.m.) at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

If you don’t want to (or can’t) drive on the (still-toll-less) highway to the capital, you can submit testimony by email: tratestimony@cga.ct.gov, and cc Boucher: toni.boucher@cga.ct.gov. Deadline is Tuesday evening.

To take Boucher’s “border toll survey,” and/or sign her petition against tolls, click here.

One Westporter has already made his views known. Second Selectman Avi Kaner says:

Tolls on I-95 will by definition drive traffic onto our local roads. Our residents already pay gasoline taxes of over 60 cents a gallon to fund transportation. Adding tolls is yet another layer of inefficient taxation requiring the installation and maintenance of a tolling infrastructure. Connecticut’s focus should be on reforming the state pension system, ranked as the 2nd worst funded in the United States by S&P.

What do you think about tolls?  Click “Comments” (after the text of the bill below). Let us know — and please use your real, full real name.


HB 6818, an Act Concerning The Establishment of Electronic Tolls At The State’s Borders.

CT dept transSection 1. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) The Commissioner of Transportation shall initiate any actions necessary for the establishment and commencement of operations of electronic tolling at the borders of the state, including, but not limited to: (1) Entering into an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration to ensure that any toll operation undertaken by the state will be allowed by the Federal Highway Administration and will not result in any adverse financial impact on the state; (2) consultation with other state and federal agencies, as necessary and appropriate; (3) the development of recommendations concerning legislative or regulatory changes needed to establish such tolls; and (4) the development of procedures to ensure that any moneys received from the operation of such tolls are deposited in the Special Transportation Fund and used only for transportation purposes.

(b) Beginning July 1, 2015, and monthly thereafter until the commencement of operations of electronic tolling at the borders of the state, the commissioner shall submit a progress report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to transportation on the actions taken during the preceding month pursuant to subsection (a) of this section. Such progress report shall include, but not be limited to, any request for legislative action necessary for the establishment of such tolling.


37 responses to “Let’s Talk Tolls

  1. 60 cents a gallon is a big enough gas tax already. Where does that tax money go? Tolls would create inefficient traffic jams, burning fuel, intensifying pollution. Ixnay tolls.

  2. I remember a dreadful accident at a toll booth a number of years ago, which led to their removal. We have too many accidents on the Turnpike as it is, without the toll booths. And isn’t the gasoline tax supposed to pay for road maintenance?

  3. Adding tolls will just literally drive people towards the borders…to flee another “tax”. As Avi Kaner suggested…get the out of control pension obligations under control by reforming the system. Hartford is out of control and disconnected. We are taxed enough here in Connecticut already. Curious to know how some of our other local legislators feel about this new tax opportunity.

  4. Michael Calise

    Connecticut state government has failed miserably in the use of existing tax revenue. This is just another layer of taxation which will also be squandered until the next “emergency” and another taxation level will emerge. We have hit the excessive taxation wall. It is time to untertake a new course and stop this trainwreck which began with imposition of the state income tax!!!

  5. Just to clarify: The tolls would be electronic, E-Z Pass-style — not like those old-school booths pictured above. You could zip through them, like you do on the Jersey Turnpike and other places, often without even slowing down.

  6. Defined benefit plan for all state employees is way to go. No tolls and, eventually, lower taxes.

  7. My previous post is an error..I did mean defined contribution plans.

  8. This proposal is offensive on so many levels. I am retired and as any financial analyst will tell you, it is not what you have (in retirement assets/income) it is what you spend that determines whether you will out live your retirement savings. This is equally as true in government. CT is the most taxed State (or maybe it was 49th) and still can’t balance its budget or support its basic infrastructure.

    It is inconceivable that the funds derived from 60 cents a gallon can’t maintain a decent transportation infrastructure. Wouldn’t it be refreshing for our legislators to be discussing how money is being spent before we hear about a new tax? One only to needs to travel a section of I 95 (like around exit 14/15) to wonder about the efficiency of dollars spent (5 workers watching 1 “work”.) A prior legislature made a promise when it took the tolls down and raised the gas tax. Every legislature since has broken that promise. This madness has to stop at every level.

  9. Not everyone has E-Z pass so plenty of jams at the toll locations.
    But why should anyone be surprised ? CT and Westport voters elected a DEMOCRAT !

  10. Ellen Wentworth

    When it read it fast, I thought it said trolls! I thought as long as they stay under their bridges; who cares!

    • Except the bridges are about to fall down. They need some kind of funding to be fixed. Where will it come from?

      • Wasn’t the gas tax supposed to pay for road and bridge maintenance and repairs?

        • Luciano Morelli

          We only have the second highest gas tax in the U.S. We can’t be expected to fund infrastructure with only the SECOND highest gas tax in the land! Come on now people…pony up!

  11. Although I’m not a fan of tolls, and I know there will be a lot of flack on my thoughts: I have long thought that there should be tolls at ports of entry, especially both ends of I-95, I-15, I-91 and I-84. That would also place entry tolls on the local roads with a payment exemption for local residents, and waivers to low income residents.

    Imagine if every truck on I-95 needed to pull to the right passing through the under-used inspection point, allowing cars only on the main highway, much as it is done northbound on I-87 in NY. Many long haul trucks are just passing through the state, tearing up the roads and filling up in NJ.

    OK: start the ice balls…

  12. Doris Levinson

    Tolls are a backward step and would generate slowdowns and more pollution in an already maximally burdened 1-95. Tolls were abandoned for good reasons that still apply. Think about the impact of slowing down for tolls in the morning and evening rush hour. Not a pretty sight.

  13. http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Highway-toll-company-hires-governor-s-former-6069156.php

    The above Tolls company story from the Ct. Post confirms the contract is “being given” to the company who employed Malloy’s former Chief-of-staff

  14. In theory, tolls are perfect: they are an efficient and appropriate way to collect funds for state-level road construction and maintenance, functioning completely on a user-pay basis. With modern collection methods, they can be installed at the state line and at on and off ramps and collected at normal speeds with no stopping and zero probability of causing accidents, while providing no incentive to exit before the toll and destroy local infrastructure to save a few dollars. And they offer the opportunity to tax out of state residents for the support of in-state roads to the exact extent such drivers use them.

    In practice, though, tolls are just another way for an irresponsible government to liberate your hard-earned dollars from your family. We used to have tolls, and after the state used them to pay off the construction financing they diverted the proceeds to general spending while completely neglecting road maintenance, which brought us the Mianus River Bridge. So then the state eliminated the tolls, created an income tax, and increased their spending at a rate that’s an insult to drunken sailors, all while the population of the state has not budged.

    As much as I like tolls in theory, this state’s government has a thirty year track record of irresponsibility and spending addiction that proves they cannot be trusted with this kind of opportunity to pick our pockets.

  15. I heard a statistic recently that the vast majority of our highway traffic is from people passing through our state. It seems to me that a simple technological fix of exempting CT licensed vehicles from CT EZ Pass charges would suffice.

  16. Dick Lowenstein

    Let’s have a balanced discussion on border tolls. Impact on public transportation. Where the money would go. Who would be paying. What control are need to address some of the potential problems. Effect on road congestion. What roads should be tolled.

    And for those who call this a tax, the keyword is TOLL not POLL. 🙂

    • Dick…a toll is a form of a hidden tax especially when the money is rerouted to other expenditures having nothing to do with road and bridge maintenance.

  17. There are many issues with not only tolls and how the money collected will be spent, but the real issue being a budget the governor has put together that is troubling. The need for tolls is one way for the governor to try and raise revenues and he refuses to cut costs. I will focus first on the budget issue and then get into why tolls might not solve anything.

    First the budget issue. Tolls in CT is one way for the governor to raise revenue in a state that is practically broke. CT has over $100 billion in unfunded liabilities and the governor continues not to address the issue. OPPEB, pensions and medical are the cause. And so is our debt which continues to grow.

    In the governors budget proposal, he need to borrow at least $300 million more to pay the operating expenses. Please-I don’t care what side of the spectrum you are on,l we are borrowing to pay bills we owe.

    Worst–and please read this, the state treasurer–A DEMOCRAT wrote Malloy of friday and said this..’State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier warned Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday that one component of his new budget could harm Connecticut’s reputation on Wall Street.’

    From an article posted—this is what was wrote…’In a letter released to the media Friday evening, Nappier – a Democrat – called the Democratic governor’s plan to rely on $325 million in borrowing to cover operating costs “too aggressive.”

    The governor is proposing borrowing over $435 million to pay for obligations that are already set–such as school construction costs going on and other capital programs already in place. These are CONTRACTED obligations. In addition, some of the $325 million he needs to borrow will pay for principal and interest on bonds Malloy has already received. We are borrowing to pay for bonds we already borrowed.

    What will happen is the states borrowing costs will rise as we will need to offer higher interest rates to get investor attention. So our budget already calculated having to borrow more just to pay the budget.

    I’ll be back with more–but you can start to see how bad things will get.

  18. Senior Citizens–please read–the new budget effects you.
    Higher fees for home care

    From an article I read in the CT Mirror…Governor Malloy’s plan is to cut off entry into a state-funded portion of the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders and require those already in the program to pay more toward their care.

    More from the article…’The proposal affects what’s known as “category 1” of the home care program, which funds services for just over 1,100 seniors who are at risk of needing to go into a nursing home if they don’t receive home care. Currently, participants must pay 7 percent of the cost of their care. Malloy’s plan would raise that to 15 percent.’

    If seniors have to pay more, it could lead some of the senior citizens to drop out of the program and enter a nursing home. This will drive senior citizens out of their home and into more expensive nursing homes. Just think of the cost burden to families caring for the family members.

    While Westporters have argues to try and keep senior citizens in their homes, these budget cuts would drive them out, and into nursing homes.

    More to come

  19. Malloys unrealistic budget projections and issues

    First, Governor malloy is relying on over $900 million in new revenue to help support his budget. the shortfall the first year 2015-2016 is projected to be $1.4 billion. Thats right–with a B.

    Governor malloy is not willing to tackle any layoffs or cuts in staff or workers, or even try and change their pensions to a more equitable defined contribution plan. You need only to look at the highest paid employers in the state to see retired state workers making over $150,000 year as they used overtime to boast their pension payments their last few years they worked.

    Already, the Governor is predcyting a budget shortfall at $1.1 billion but non partisan groups say it is more likely to be $1.3 billion and over 41.4 billion the next year. .

    With such high costs for labor in the state something should be done. But in the nee budget the Governor makes no demands of labor, no layoffs,: It has no across-the-board layoffs, no furloughs and no early-retirement incentives.

    One item the governor is looking at is closing a prison. At this time, nobody knows which one and how much that will save the state. And the bigger question, if we close a prison and have no extra beds, where do prisoners go?

    One area Governor malloy will continue to cut is our public colleges and universities. If you remember, those institutions already lost about 2 percent of their funding this year to emergency cuts ordered by Malloy, and now would lose another 1 percent with the new budget.

    Businesses in the sate will get hurt as the governor will change corporate tax credits causes businesses to pay an extra $100 million to the state. The long term effect of these ‘extra’ taxes could drive businesses to move out of the state. That would be devasting to CT workers.

    If you don’t know, CT ranked LAST in the US for job growth. That was 50 out of 50 states. More business are looking to move out of the state because of the budget issues and costs to do business. Malloys new budget makes it worse, and how about those tolls. More on the tolls to come.

    Other areas Malloy’s budget hits–without attacking the high cost of government employment are hospital. It appears hospitals will get less money from the state and therefore it appears at least one hospital in the state will close.

    The issue of tolls is just area–but social costs and senior citizens will truly be hurt with malloy’s new budget. Malloy’s new budget would require seniors to pay more for home care and eliminate plans for an effort to better coordinate the care of the costliest Medicaid clients. Hospitals would pay $165 million more in taxes and an estimated 34,000 parents would no longer be eligible for Medicaid.

    Although the proposal includes some additional funding for the state agencies that serve low-income residents and those with mental illness, addiction or developmental disabilities, budget director Benjamin Barnes acknowledged that it was unlikely to be enough to meet the demand for services.

  20. Lets now get into tolls–and what CT is already doing.

    CT has the third highest gasoline tax that was suppose to go to maintaining roads and bridges. We are just slightly behind PA and NY. Here are the details:
    State Gasoline tax Diesel tax
    (US) Average 48.5 54.5
    Alabama 39.3 46.3
    Alaska 29.7 36.2
    Arizona 37.4 51.4
    Arkansas 40.2 47.2
    California 63.8 65.0
    Colorado 40.4 44.9
    Connecticut 65.8 78.9
    Delaware 41.4 46.4
    District of Columbia 41.9 47.9
    Florida 54.8 58.1
    Georgia 44.9 54.5
    Hawaii 63.4 66.8
    Idaho 43.4 49.4
    Illinois 49.1 63.9
    Indiana 48.3 68.7
    Iowa 40.4 47.9
    Kansas 42.4 50.4
    Kentucky 46.0 49.0
    Louisiana 38.4 44.4
    Maine 48.4 55.6
    Maryland 45.8 52.6
    Massachusetts 44.9 50.9
    Michigan 48.7 58.4
    Minnesota 47.0 53.0
    Mississippi 37.2 42.8
    Missouri 35.7 41.7
    Montana 46.2 52.9
    Nebraska 44.9 50.3
    Nevada 51.6 53.0
    New Hampshire 42.2 48.2
    New Jersey 32.9 41.9
    New Mexico 37.3 47.3
    New York 68.7 73.1
    North Carolina 56.2 62.2
    North Dakota 41.4 47.4
    Ohio 46.4 52.4
    Oklahoma 35.4 38.4
    Oregon 49.5 54.7
    Pennsylvania 68.9 88.6
    Rhode Island 51.4 57.4
    South Carolina 35.2 41.2
    South Dakota 40.4 48.4
    Tennessee 39.8 42.8
    Texas 38.4 44.4
    Utah 42.9 48.9
    Vermont 50.4 56.4
    Virginia 40.8 50.5
    Washington 55.9 61.9
    West Virginia 53.0 59.0
    Wisconsin 51.3 57.3
    Wyoming 42.4 48.4

  21. Now lets talk about the gasoline tax spending and use of lock box if we implement tolls:

    In the State’s current situation, gasoline tax is not enough to cover the cost of road and bridge repair. As I have read, the Special Transportation Fund in the Connecticut budget is projected to receive about $1.5 billion in revenue next year. Only 60 percent of that will come from the state’s retail gasoline tax and wholesale levy on gasoline and other fuels. So clearly the tax tax is not enough.

    The remaining 40 percent comes from various license and permit fees and other motor vehicle receipts, as well as a major subsidy from the budget’s General Fund – which receives receipts from the income, sales and most other major taxes.

    As we know, the Governor has not funded the Special Transportation Fund with the other receipts, using that money to help pay for the severe budget shortfall. So instead of funding the transportation needs in thee state, the Governor has chosen to use the money for other budget issues.

    This would probably continue no matter what we do with tolls in the state.

    Just so you know, the shortfall owed to transportation next year, according to current law, is $150 million.

    Governor Malloy and the legislature did nor fund the 40% did in each of the last two years, so the transportation funding probably would shrink. And tolls would not help next year since they cannot be added that quick.

    So the State has not been funding the transportation needs, even thought they should be. And I question how much of the tax tax has actually gone to transportation needs. I suspect some if not lots have gone to Malloy’s budget issues.

  22. Lastly–the use of lock boxes for toll receipts–Too funny

    No doubt Governor Malloy is preaching the use of a lockbox for toll receipts–we will use the money ONLY for transportation needs. But what is in the details makes you wonder.

    And as I have pointed out in my last posting, since Connecticut’s transportation program relies on many funding sources, guarantees to protect toll receipts might mean little if other sources are diverted.

    The devil is always in the detail, with lockboxes and whether the state will actually ‘only’ used the money for transportation needs. A study was done recently and of the 23 states reviewed that had lockbox rules only six states specifically prohibited their use for anything other than transportation.

    Why you might ask? Because there are the so-called Built-in exceptions. Again, devil in the details.

    Here is an example of what is happening in Virginia–it allows the governor and legislature to divert funds from transportation, provided officials also establish a plan to repay those dollars within three years. Tolls not helping to pay for roads and bridges for 3 years? Really?

    Maryland’s new “lockbox” allows diversions provided the governor declares a fiscal emergency and each chamber of the legislature agrees in a three-fifth’s vote. CT is in a fiscal emergency–so what could happen? Tolls for road or paying off debt? I only ask.

  23. Finally–a conclusion that should now concern us all with tolls:

    Though tolls and gasoline taxes draw the most attention, Connecticut and many other states rely on other sources of funding as well to pay for transportation programs.

    The Special Transportation Fund in the Connecticut budget is projected to receive about $1.5 billion in revenue next year. About 60 percent of that will come from the state’s retail gasoline tax and wholesale levy on gasoline and other fuels. The remaining 40 percent, or $600 million comes from various license and permit fees and other motor vehicle receipts, as well as a major subsidy from the budget’s General Fund – which receives receipts from the income, sales and most other major taxes.

    From something I read, ‘The former state Transportation Strategy Board estimated in 2011 that restoring tolls would yield $50 million to $75 million in annual receipts’.

    Well hold on—if the state needs $600 million more (the 40%) to fund our roads and bridges, above what the state collects on gasoline taxes, and if tolls only provide $50-$75 million, then we need over $500 million more to fund roads and bridges. And if that comes form other accounts, and the Governor has not provided those funds from the other accounts before, then tolls really do NOTHING for repairing roads and bridges.

    In other words, putting toll and fuel tax receipts in a “lockbox” wouldn’t protect transportation if other sources of funding weren’t given similar protection. The revenue developed by tolls in no where close to what the state needs to fix our roads and bridges.

    If there is to be a discussion on tolls, then there should be a discussion on all funding needed for roads and tolls. We can only look to what has previously occurred to know the money has not be appropriately used. And tolls is too small to make any difference, yet it could negatively effect travel in Fairfield County.

  24. And finally:
    I thought it would be helpful for everyone to know how some of the money is spent from the transportation fund: In addition to roads and bridges–it is used to pay for:

    1) Debt service on the bonds issued to finance highway, bridge and rail improvements.
    2) The operating costs of the Department of Transportation.
    3) The operating costs of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    My guess–someone will ask–why is the roads and bridges fund paying for DMV? Great question–it should not. The DMV wasn’t always funded with transportation dollars.

    This created another issue–if the legislature and governor can’t take money from the lock box, could they put other costs into the lock box–like DMV? Probbaly, they could they move non-transportation expenses into that fund?

    For thiose that do not know, more than $1.4 billion in fuel tax receipts have been spent on non-transportation programs, and Connecticut has now has between $12 billion and $20 billion in vital highway and rail improvement projects currently deemed “unfindable. Meaning we cannot pay for them.

    I started my writing by saying we have a unsustainable budget and costs in CT. You now can see how that not only effects our seniors and hospitals, etc., but how it clearly effects our roads and bridges. Un funded projects are not projects we can complete. Borrowig money to pay for the states operating costs including the interest on our debt is unsustainable.

    The House of CT is crumbling along with our roads and bridges.

  25. Dick Lowenstein

    The recurring theme in many of these posts is that tolls are a tax, albeit hidden. By that reasoning, politics aside, any fees paid to government for a service received are a tax. That would include tolls. And at the local level, I guess Parks and Recreation fees are a “tax” ,too.

  26. Parks and Recreation fees might be equated to a tax although it is an individual’s choice to participate in certain activities like golfing, tennis, vehicular parking at Compo ect. For the most part Parks and Recreation allocated monies received through the town or paid fees are generally spent wisely…except for the Compo Beach study which was …well out of hand!
    Let’s face it Dick…government at the State and Federal level generally do a poor job administering responsible spending whether or not Democrats or Republicans hold the mantle.

  27. How will Tolls be implemented?

    Will we need to have toll readers at every exit so you are charged by how far you go? Reader at the highway entrance and readers at the highway exits? Lets call that the New Jersey style. Is that what we will do? We have so many exits, what will be the cost to maintain? Have any figures been discussed as to the on going costs to maintain such a system?

    Or will it be a Florida model where you drive thru a structure on the highway every 10 miles and get charged that way? How many of these will be built? Will the same distance be the same in Fairfield County as lets say Hartford County? Will Fairfield County have the most?

    Or will be just have them at borders? Which borders? CT and Rhode Island? CT and NY? Will they be put on I-84? CT and MA? Will that drive enough revenue to matter?

    Just thought I would ask

    • Dick Lowenstein

      Good questions. Let the discussion begin.

      • I will just add in one more thought-how do they use tolls on the Merritt? Distance? Every exit? How long will it take to build whatever they decide? What will be the cost to maintain?

    • Given the information supplied in your earlier posts, I think the only relevant questions is; Why should we trust Hartford with this new source of revenue?