Democratic lawmakers are confident they will have the chance to vote on tolls before the session ends early next month.
The legislature is current considering a bill that would require the Department of Transportation to study the implementation of tolls on interstates 84, 91, and 95, and the Merritt Parkway. The DOT would then need to submit a report, including possible rates and locations, to the legislature, which would have 30 days to vote.
If the legislature did not vote, the plan would automatically take effect.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz told reporters during an April 10 press conference that he expects a vote before the session ends on May 9.
“I will tell you tolls, in one way, shape, or form will go on the board” for a vote, he said. The bill passed through the Transportation Committee earlier this session with a 20-16 vote, while the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee advanced it with a 26-25 party-line vote.
Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, the House chairman of the Transportation Committee, said tolls are needed to help shore up the Special Transportation Fund, which pays for infrastructure upgrades.
Guerrera said revenues in the STF are already failing to keep up with projects, and that doesn’t even account for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $100-billion, 30-year plan to upgrade the state’s infrastructure.
“Without electronic trolling, Connecticut will be unable to adequately address our ailing infrastructure, which would have significant impacts on our future economy and quality of life,” Malloy said in written testimony on the bill.
Guerrera agreed during an interview for the Morning Record, the Record-Journal’s daily news podcast.
“We need to keep up with our infrastructure, and we need to expand on our infrastructure,” he said. “Businesses don’t want to come to our state if they can’t move their goods and services in a proper way.”
Republicans remain opposed to the bill. Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, and Transportation Committee vice chairman, said tolls would just be another cost for taxpayers. He also acknowledged a need to increase spending on transportation projects, but questioned whether the state needs Malloy’s $100-billion plan.
“We have to make up for lost time, there’s not doubt that we’ve fallen behind the curve, but the question is, ‘do we have to increase spending’” at the rate Malloy has suggested, Suzio said.
Tolls have also drawn opposition from the public, including from the Yankee Institute, which placed “toll troll” signs at the Capitol Tuesday in protest, and from the Motor Transportation Association of Connecticut.
MATC President Joseph Sculley said in written testimony in March that tolls would be too costly to implement, not produce the revenue advocates claims, and give drivers an incentive to utilize local roadways — which aren’t built for higher traffic volumes — instead of highways.
To hear more from Guerrera and Suzio, listen to the Morning Record at https://bit.ly/2HbQIPL