Lawmakers to review highway tolls proposal - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers to review highway tolls proposal

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(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)

Connecticut lawmakers reviewed a proposal for highway tolls on Wednesday

The General Assembly said there is growing support for the concept.

The resounding testimony was that if Connecticut doesn't take action, it will be very damaging. 

It would allow the Department of Transportation commissioner to begin reviewing the steps needed to put electronic tolls back up in the state.

"First the state has to authorize there should be tolls to be even begin. We don't get to decide because we need to go through an environmental and federal assessment," said James Redeker, DOT Commissioner. 

Even if tolls are approved, the state wouldn't see them for a few years. Studies have to be done on where to put them. 

The bill would limit tolls to Interstates 91, 95 and 84.

The DOT commissioner supports tolls, saying every state in the Northeast corridor uses them and puts Connecticut at a major disadvantage. 

Rep. Tony Guererra, a Democrat who chairs the Transportation Committee, said he hopes to get the bill passed this session.

"It's unfair for the people of Connecticut to pay for the roads that everyone else is damaging and the out of staters pass right through and don't pay a dime," Guerrera said.

The state's transportation fund is running on empty. Tolls could generate between 300 to 600 million dollars per year. There's another proposal that could also generate revenue, a tax on new cars that could bring in $60 million in 2018 and about $380 million in 5 years. 

Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed implementing the measure by 2023.

Republican Senator Len Suzio opposed tolls and said we should look at other options and cut back on projects.

"So if they scale it back to some reasonable amount, it eliminates the need for new taxes and installing tolls," Suzio said. 

CT trucking companies are concerned about the financial impact of tolls.

"We consider it another tax, a regressive tax we already pay for. We already pay fuel taxes, we pay for road use taxes, that our industry pays for now," said John Pruchnicki, Coastal Carriers of CT. 

The transportation committee has to vote on this proposal. That could happen next week. Last year, tolls passed the committee, but was never taken up in the senate for a vote. 

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