Tolls on Connecticut highways are one step closer to reality. The legislature’s Transportation Committee recently gave the “green light” to the state Department of Transportation to begin the 4-year process of planning to reintroduce the controversial devices.
Tolls were phased out over 30 years ago on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway, following a deadly accident at the Stratford turnpike plaza. New tolls would be electronic.
Toll plazas were a familiar scene on I-95 more than 30 years ago. A proposed bill would establish electronic (E-Z Pass) tolls.
In their previous incarnation, there were tollbooths on I-95 near the Westport-Norwalk border. But they were not the first in the area.
In 1806 the state General Assembly granted a charter to the Connecticut Turnpike Company. They ran the road from Fairfield to Greenwich — today known as the Post Road.
In return for keeping the thoroughfare in “good repair,” they were allowed to establish 4 turnpike gates. One was at the Saugatuck River crossing — now known as the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
The narrow, wooden Post Road bridge, in an early 1900s postcard from Jack Whittle’s collection. Relics of the toll collection system can be seen at the bottom (east bank of the Saugatuck River.
Four-wheeled pleasure carriages drawn by 2 horses were charged 25 cents. Two-wheeled pleasure carriages drawn by one horse paid 12 cents. Each sled, sleigh, cart or wagon drawn by a horse, ox or mule was charged 10 cents.
The state granted exemptions for people traveling to attend public worship, funerals, town or freemen’s meetings; those obliged to do military duty; “persons going to and from grist mills with grists”; people living within 1 mile of the toll gates, and “farmers attending their ordinary farming business.”
However — for reasons that are unclear — those exemptions applied only to the 3 other toll gates. The Saugatuck River bridge was not included.
Astonishingly, the toll for automobiles over 150 years later was still 25 cents.
I bet that won’t be the base rate
if when the new tolls are installed.