The much-debated return of tolls to Connecticut’s highways took a potential step forward on Wednesday, with a transportation group formed by Gov.-elect Ned Lamont recommending the installation of tolls for all vehicles, as well as possibly increasing the gas tax.
During his campaign for governor, Lamont repeatedly said he was in favor of levying tolls only on tractor-trailers. The state Department of Transportation released a study last month saying that the installation of 82 tolling gantries across the state could net $1 billion per year in revenue if applied to all vehicles, with 44 percent of that revenue generated by in-state drivers.
“We recognize that the tolling conversation isn’t easy, but we agree that it is a hard conversation that our state needs to have,” Melissa Kaplan-Macey, co-chairman of the transportation advisory panel and Connecticut director of the Regional Plan Association in Stamford, said. “We’re the only state in our region that doesn’t charge user fees for wear and tear on our highways. Maintaining and upgrading our roadways requires funding and, particularly with respect to heavy trucks, vehicles passing through Connecticut are getting a free ride on our roads.”
The panel also discussed possibly increasing the gas tax, already the seventh-highest such tax in the country, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Connecticut drivers pay 43.8 cents per gallon in state taxes and another 18.4 cents per gallon in federal gas taxes for a total of 62.2 cents per gallon – 10 cents higher than the national average and 12.5 cents higher than the Northeast regional average.
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, a fierce opponent of tolls, repeated his resistance in a statement after the transition team’s recommendations were made public.
“I’m trying very hard to give Governor-elect Lamont the benefit of the doubt and not rush to judgment,” he said. “However, the policy proposals that have emerged from many of his transition team meetings, including today’s proposal to toll all cars and increase the gas tax, are extremely concerning.
“These ideas look like Dan Malloy 2.0 and then some,” Fasano continued. “I hope Governor-elect Lamont considers these proposals very carefully. We do not need another Malloy administration or worse. I fear that is what we are beginning to see take shape.”