Connecticut Can’t Afford Tolling

There are a number of reasons why the costs of adding tolls to Connecticut’s roads outweigh the benefits.

This year, the Connecticut legislature is again considering a proposal to add tolls to I-95, I-84, and Route 11.

For some, the subject brings up memories of 1983 when a tractor trailer slammed into cars waiting to pay a toll on I-95. It was a tragic accident that killed seven people and lead to the removal of tolls. 

While some say electronic tolling systems cause fewer delays, most systems have cash payment lanes, for those without vehicle transponders, which can easily backup traffic.

Those looking to avoid tolls would create backups on local roads. 

Of course, starting a toll system would force the creation of a large and expensive bureaucracy that has capital, operational, and enforcement costs. 

According to Virginiatollfree95.com, toll collection costs can be between 12 and 30% of revenue while collection of federal and state motor fuel taxes only cost 2 to 3%.

Tolling would create significant expenses for the trucking industry and the businesses they serve, which would be passed on to shippers and the consumer.

Higher shipping costs for businesses and industries would make it difficult to attract new businesses in Connecticut.

According to Notollsi95.com, the installation of tolls would hurt motels and restaurants along the tolled route.

Tolling Connecticut’s I-84 and I-95 would go against the premise of a toll-free interstate system. When the system was established in 1956, Virginiatollfree95.com states, only pre-existing segments were allowed to have tolls. For the rest of the system, revenue was collected primarily through fuel taxes.

If Connecticut did install tolls, it is very likely it would lose federal interstate maintenance funds. I-95 and I-84 travelers would pay federal and state taxes at the gasoline pump in addition to tolls each time they use the highway. As a result, all drivers would be double taxed and low-income drivers would feel the greatest hit.

While it would be easier to toll a proposed extension of Route 11 to I-95, revenue would be dependent on a substantial increase in traffic choosing to take the new tolled highway rather than taking Route 2 to I-395 or Route 85. 

A Connecticut Office of Legislative Research report analyzed several 2009 proposed tolling concepts. They said that “some of these like HOV lane conversion (on I-84 and I-91) and constructing new toll express lanes on planned Interstate highway expansions (like I-95) fall within the current federal tolling exceptions. Others like border tolling all major highways, tolling all limited access highways, and congested corridor tolling, probably do not.”

Adding lanes to I-95, the report states, “west of New Haven, could prove challenging because of the difficulty in acquiring the necessary rights-of-way.”

Two current tolling studies, according to another Office of Legislative Research report, are examining congestion pricing on I-84 in Hartford and I-95 between New Haven and New York.

In an ABC/Time/Washington Post national survey, 88% opposed a toll for those driving into city centers while 68% opposed tolls to control congestion.

Whether its loss of federal funds, increased costs for the trucking industry and businesses, loss of business to motels and restaurants along a tolled route, or the cost of a new bureaucracy, there are plenty of ways that tolls will cost Connecticut more money than it will gain.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jane March 04, 2013 at 11:03 AM
If tolls were that costly I would guess that MA, NY, NJ, and PA would not have them. To place tolls coming IN to the state will not create backups within our state - such as the way the NY, NJ, and PA do it. I don't believe that hotels and motels will lose any noticeable business - travelers tend to take the easiest route, in Starters will take the back rods and they don't tend to live in hotels. But, on that note, if your premise is correct, then business would pick up at the back road hotels and motels - right? Taking the tolls out 1983 was over reaction. When a plane goes down we don't close the airports. When an apartment house catches fire we don't take down all apartment houses. CT needs all the revenue it can get. If having tolls is advantageous over federal funds (which, by the way, is dwindling annually) then install the tolls - sooner than later.
Corey Sipe March 04, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Those states had tolls before 1956, so they did not lose federal highway funding. They built the infrastructure initially when it was cheaper to do so rather than start from scratch like CT would be doing. Mass has eliminated tolls on a portion of the Mass Pike and I certainly have seen backups at the cash lanes especially when they are short on help. Federal law only allows creation of tolls on interstate if you are building an expansion to existing infrastructure unless you get a special exception which is hard to do. RI was already denied a permit to put border tolls that would have helped build a Providence viaduct, the toll must be near where you are doing the improvements according to the Feds.
Corey Sipe March 04, 2013 at 04:35 PM
I forgot to add that if a state installs tolls without getting Federal permission, they must pay back all Federal funds used for the highway. The removal of the tolls allowed CT to get a good amount of money they wouldn't have received through tolls.
Dave March 06, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Corey is drinking the anti-toll cool-aid. http://reason.org/news/show/myths-toll-and-gas-tax-collection
Corey Sipe March 07, 2013 at 06:56 PM
The report fails to adequately address federal restrictions on creating new tolls, effects of double taxation, effects of tolls on business, the reality that most states have not embraced this technology for cash free tolls and the reasoning behind that, and the fact that if toll money is diverted to other means, the Feds could force the state to remove the tolls unlike the fuel taxes where states can use it however they like. If such fuel taxes were limited for use to highways only we would have done a better job maintaining our highways.


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