HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s effort to pass a transportation bill including a trucks-only toll on 12 bridges is on the verge of meeting the bridge that will determine if the proposal lives or dies – state lawmakers. If all goes well, Lamont is expected to release the entire proposal to both lawmakers and the public on January 21. Following the mandated five-day period for public comment and debate, lawmakers could take a vote on the proposal as early as January 27.
As reported by The Connecticut Mirror, Lamont’s proposal, which began early last year as a plan to enact tolls on all vehicles along numerous highways and bridges, has now been narrowed to trucks-only at far fewer locations.
Sen. Len Fasano (R), a strong opponent of tolls of any sort in the state, wrote an editorial for the Connecticut Post in which he claimed it was time for Lamont to give up tolling and come up with a more effective and bipartisan proposal to fund highways. “Democrats have given tolls their best shot,” Fasano wrote. “They’ve floated every toll idea under the sun. They proposed tolls on all cars, and just trucks. The offered resident discounts. The went from 85 toll locations down to 50 and now 12. The reality is there’s no toll plan that can make it across the finish line.”
While Republicans, the minority party in both the statehouse and senate, have dug their heels in for a battle that seemed to be going their way a few weeks ago, the publicly-discussed changes in the proposal to tolling a dozen bridges and trucks-only, may also be changing public opinion. In fact, a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a global firm working for interest groups and democratic candidates, indicated that Connecticut voters now support tolls by a margin of 51%-42%. Even worse for the opposition, when provided more details about the latest tolling plan, those polled increased their support to 64% versus the opposition’s 35%.
Factors including Gov. Lamont’s claim that 50% of tolls would be paid by out-of-state vehicles, along with the idea of trucks-only tolling at just 12 locations, might be swaying public opinion. Still, in a report aired on FOX-61, 28 towns have passed resolutions opposing tolls, the latest being Newtown. The city’s legislative delegation provided a seven-point resolution justifying its opposition, with most points focusing on increased traffic on city and country roadways as trucks take steps to avoid tolls. Likewise, the resolution included claims that increased traffic will impact real estate values, resulting in a city less attractive to homebuyers, developers, and business owners.
One hurdle that Lamont’s latest plan did not omit is a controversial plan to place a toll on the I-684 bridge over the Byrum River in Greenwich. While 95% of the length of I-684 is in New York, a 1.4-mile section of the roadway crosses the northwestern tip of the Connecticut panhandle. As many New Yorkers use the route to commute to New York City, it is likely that far more New York drivers will pay tolls than those from Connecticut. The proposed toll on I-684 has led to saber-rattling among Empire State legislators who have said that if Connecticut does impose a toll targeting mainly New York drivers at the location, they can expect to be met with even more tolls targeting Connecticut drivers and placed at border crossings those routinely crossing from Connecticut into New York utilize. The proposal has the potential of creating a toll war between the two states.
As Gov. Lamont’s final, though trimmed down, transportation bill approaches the bridge to approval over the next few days, no doubt Lamont knows that to gain the votes he needs, he may have to pay a toll in future political favors. And it’s very possible some of those favors may come due in New York, not Connecticut.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.