Lawmakers continue to debate the idea of tolls

(WFSB file photo)

Adding tolls to Connecticut highways has been a hot topic for years in the state.

With lawmakers back in session, the issue once again hit the state legislature as a bill is being proposed in a different format.

The proposed would call for electronic tolls, not the booths with a clerk inside it.

Connecticut got rid of tolls in the 1980's after a serious crash at a toll plaza in Stratford. The closure of tolls came after a tractor trailer rammed into several cars and killed seven people.

With the proposed electronic tolls, a driver would not even know they were driving through the toll.

There was mixed reaction from local drivers about the idea of paying to travel on Connecticut highways.

“It's really hard right now, the taxes and not too much work, everything is more expensive,” Karen Astorga, of Glastonbury, said.

“They send a ticket to my house, so I gotta pay the ticket from the toll, it was like 55 cents,” driver Jeffrey Rosado said. “For me, it's better like that because you don't have to stop.”

A bill, which was sitting in the state legislature, proposes installing electronic tolls on state highways that could include the state's borders and through interstates 84 and 95.

State Rep. Tony Guerrera introduced the bill.

“It's a fair system in regard to getting monies back to our state to fix our roads and bridges,” Guerrera said.

Guerrera said it could generate up to one billion dollars over a decade. Out-of-state drivers would add to that revenue.

“They travel through the state of Connecticut and within two hours or three hours of one border to the next, they don't pay anything,” Guerrera said.

Tolls were already in nearby states such as Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. Massachusetts tore down their old manned-tolls and put in electronic ones.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation completed past studies including this one called Interstate 95 congestion relief, which said electronic tolls wouldn't create traffic problems.

As there are no booths, no stopping and no safety problems because drivers wouldn't need to slow down. The new system has E-ZPass readers and mounted cameras.

Someone without an E-ZPass would get sent a bill. But, other lawmakers aren't for the idea. Lawmakers including state Sen. Toni Boucher said the state could lose federal funding and it would take years to install them.

"You are giving up federal funds so you would have to calculate that. The cost of installation, there are people who aren't compliant," Boucher said. "Up to 30 percent don't even pay a toll bill that's given to them."

Non-supporters also said the state already has a gas tax and it's one of the highest in the country, so they asked why people should have to pay more.

There was no word yet how much a toll would cost.

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