State transportation officials addressed the idea of re-adding toll booths to Connecticut highways.
Rep. Tony Guerrera, House of Representatives chair of the Transportation Committee, and Chief Transportation Financial Officer for the House Democrats, Rep. Chris Peron, brought up the topic in front of lawmakers on Monday morning.
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Guerrera argued that the state's roads and bridges are in bad shape and a "ripple effect is killing us." He said the state needs tolls.
"Connecticut Residents can’t afford to wait; we must invest in transportation now," he said. "Every day we put off making these tough decisions, we risk tragedy on our decaying roads and bridges.”
Members of a new state business commission were told that 19 cities and towns support tolls as of earlier this month.
A majority of states actually have tolls. The number stands at 35.
State lawmakers remain divided on the prospect because many see it as another tax. Supporters, however, see it as a necessity, especially after Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that the state's transportation fund is dangerously close to running out of money.
The state’s special transportation fund is in dire straits, with only $98 million in 2017. It will be $338 million in the red in less than four years.
State numbers show 35 to 40 percent of Connecticut’s traffic, cars and tracks, are from out of state. They don't pay and it takes its toll.
“The Special Transportation Fund is drying up fast,” Perone said “We are looking at a scenario where we will run out of money for our transportation infrastructure. Electronic tolls are the answer.”
States with tolls are raking in the money. Maine takes in more than $130 million a year, and Massachusetts more than three times that. New York and New Jersey are in the billions.
A poll by AAA showed less than half of people support tolls.
However, they are a more popular option than increasing the gas tax or a mileage fee.
Republican candidate for governor and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton released a statement following the news conference.
“Once again, legislative Democrats are showing us they are out of touch with the hard-working people of Connecticut," Boughton said. "After misappropriating transportation funds for years to cover-up self-inflicted budget deficits, Democrats now want to draw blood from a stone and impose yet another tax on the people of our state."
The federal government requires that funds from electronic toll be used for transportation infrastructure.
Tolls were abolished in 1983 after a crash in Stratford killed seven people.
If tolls were to be approved, it would take three to five years to install them.
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