Connecticut could stand to gain $1 billion annually with electronic tolling, the state Department of Transportation said in a new report.
The report, released last week, said Connecticut could achieve $1 billion annually even with per-mile rates lower than many other states.
The 81-page report is based on a study by CDM Smith, an engineering and construction firm. The company looked at electronic tolling on interstates 84, 91, 95, and 691, and routes 2, 8, 9, and 15, with up to 82 toll gantries possibly being installed.
The authors of the report urged the state to continue with a proposed $10 million study funded by the State Bond Commission.
“The reality is, there remains a substantial amount of additional information that would be required to support a future decision by the legislature on whether to authorize tolls in Connecticut and to obtain the required approval by the Federal Highway Administration to implement tolls,” the report said.
The study described a tiered pricing system with a 30-percent discount for Connecticut residents with a state-issued E-Z pass, compared to rates for out-of-state residents.
The study further raises the possibility of an additional discount for “regular commuters or frequent commuters” – described as those who make more than 40 one-way trips per month. Drivers without E-Z pass will pay higher rates.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, a strong advocate for tolls, said the report didn’t do anything to change his stance.
“Frankly, there isn’t a lot of new information here that wasn’t already out there before,” he said. “The real question that remains is what’s the best way to fund our significant transportation infrastructure needs going forward, including how to tap into the large number of out of state drivers that use our highways every day. Governor-elect Lamont has said truck tolling is a priority for him, so I expect that will be the focus of discussion when the legislature convenes.”
Critics also said the report didn’t change their view of tolls. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the 82 gantries is too much for Connecticut, the nation’s third smallest state.
“If this doesn’t make it clear that the intention is to grab as much money as possible, I don’t know what (does),” she said. Klarides said she wants to see a full plan before deciding whether to support or oppose tolls, but she has yet to see a plan she considers reasonable.
Joe Scully, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said the truckers represented by his organization “remain opposed to this proposal.”
“It seems like, at the very least, this is an attempt to make this (tolling) look not as bad,” he added. In particular, Scully questioned why rates were significantly lower than those in past studies.
During peak hours, residents with E-Z pass would pay 5.5 cents per mile, those considered frequent commuters 4.4 cents, out of state residents would pay 7.9 cents, and those paying video tolls without previously registering their license plate for collection 11.8 cents per mile.
During off-peak hours, rates would drop to 4.4 cents per mile for residents, 6.3 cents for out-of-state residents, and 9.4 cents for those paying by video toll without registering.
Peak hours, according to the scenario in the study, would be from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Some examples of trips and costs provided in the study include Wallingford to New Haven — 53 cents for residents off-peak, and 66 cents during peak hours — Southington to Hartford — 97 cents during off-peak, $1.21 during peak hours — and Hartford to New Haven — $1.67 off-peak, $2.09 during peak hours.
The discounted rate is similar to what Massachusetts residents pay on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and significantly less than those paid on the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, and Pennsylvania Turnpike.
According to the study, which forecast potential revenues beginning in 2023, the state could receive $1.086 billion annually.
The report also forecasted $372 million in start up costs, spread out over 10 years, and roughly $100 million in operating expenses, meaning the state would still stand to gain $950 million under that scenario.