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.