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November 17, 2019

Politics

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz

Highway Tolls Back On The Table?

Every state east of the Mississippi -- except Vermont, Tennessee, Alabama and Connecticut -- collects tolls on their highways. 

That's why it's inevitable that debt-ridden Connecticut, suffering from clogged and crumbling highways, will continue to consider restoring tolls.

State transportation officials have said Connecticut should be spending more than $2 billion per year on its aging, crowded infrastructure.

Gov. Ned Lamont and state legislators have returned to negotiations over when and how to collect tolls. 

Lamont, a Democrat from Greenwich, favors tolls on  four major highways: Interstates 94, 91 and 95 and the Merritt Parkway to raise an estimated $800 million extra per year.

Agreement hinges on how much money to borrow to set the plan in motion.

Gov. Ned Lamont is making a final push to salvage tolls this year and its success could hinge on the limit he and lawmakers set on Connecticut’s credit card.

Officials are considering borrowing up to $300 million annually, of which $100 million would be earmarked for transportation projects.

The governor is asking fellow Democrats to consider a scaled-back proposal that would place tolls only in strategic locations — such as aging bridges.

Lamont’s Office of Policy and Management Secretary, Melissa McCaw, sent a letter to state lawmakers explaining that the governor was open to a compromise “which will include some bonding for this necessary and timely investment.”

The General Assembly is expected to return for a veto session on Monday, July 22, and could possibly discuss toll and borrowing options.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the Lamont Administration is moving in a positive direction. Looney said the governor has yet to provide details on what his reduced tolling proposal entails. “None of it has been pinned down with any precision,” Looney said.

And House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, who supports tolls on major highways, called Lamont’s willingness to compromise on tolls and borrowing a positive step.

Connecticut’s bonded indebtedness per capita ranks among the highest of all states. Between 2012 and 2019, it issued an average of $1.59 billion annually in general obligation bonds.