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Toll Legislation Moves Forward In Connecticut State Legislature

Interstate 95 is one of several highways were lawmakers are considering putting tolls.
Interstate 95 is one of several highways were lawmakers are considering putting tolls.

Connecticut is one step closer to bringing tolls back to the state. The legislature's Transportation Committee voted in favor of moving forward three bills related to tolling, including Governor Ned Lamont's plan that would put tolls on interstates 91, 95 and 84, as well as portions of Route 15. 

Democratic state Representative Jonathan Steinberg told the panel the state's transportation infrastructure is in crisis, and tolls are the only way to fix it.

Speaking about the hundreds of bridges in the state that are rated as structurally deficient, he said “if we don’t make a move pretty soon it’s going to look like a bombed out Syrian province.”

But there was no bipartisanship on the committee Wednesday. All Republican lawmakers voted against the bills. State Representative Gail Lavielle said she's not opposed to the concept of tolls, but the bill, as it's written, is too vague.

"We're voting on something that does not exist. There is not a concrete proposal in this bill," she said. "I don't know how many tolls I'm voting for, where they're going to go, what they will cost...what it will cost to operate them."

Lamont began lobbying early in the day, urging the business community to "stand up" for tolling, during a meeting with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. He said he feels strongly the state needs a "new independent source of revenue that's reliable and predictable," adding it's key to economic development. 

After the vote, his office issued a statement welcoming the outcome.

"A reliable, sustainable revenue source – 40 percent of which will be paid for by people who don’t even live here – is necessary to make the infrastructure investment we need to get our state growing again," he said in the statement. "My plan includes discounts for Connecticut EZ-Pass holders and frequent commuters and assistance for low-income individuals and families, as well."

But Senate Republicans decried the development. In their own statement, senators Len Fasano and Henri Martin said, "all three toll bills approved today have one thing in common, they allow lawmakers to completely abandon their responsibility to taxpayers and shift the blame to someone else."

The bills now move to votes in the Senate and the House.

Copyright 2019 Connecticut Public Radio

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.
Ray Hardman began his broadcasting career at WFSU in Tallahassee Florida where he served at different times as a producer, Operations manager, and Morning Edition host. Ray joined the WNPR staff in 1996, as a reporter and host. He later became the Music Director for WNPR, and in 2002 he went back to his newsy roots as the host of WNPR’s Morning Edition.
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