Tolls only on trucking? Pardon our skepticism
When I-95 was opened in the 1950s, tolls were set up at several points, especially around well-traveled areas where traffic was heavier and revenue more available. From Old Saybrook (later Madison) to Bridgeport no less than four tolling stations were erected with more toward New York. The tolls were for the upkeep of the highway.
In the 1980s, the move to get rid of tolls was growing. People in the southern part of the state saw other highways built, including I-91 and I-84, which had no tolls. That was seen as unfair to the commuters in the southern tier of the state. Eventually, a catastrophic accident, resulting the deaths of many, happened at Stratford, and the General Assembly eliminated tolls. But, we were told, federal funds would be further available, making the need for tolls unnecessary.
The General Assembly found other ways to repair and maintain highways, especially after the Mianus Bridge disaster, increasing the gas tax to stockpile funds for roads. But as with many “earmarked” funds in Hartford, they find their way into other programs, while spending increases at three and four times the rate of inflation.
In the last decade, ideas for bringing back tolls have been floated because we need funds for maintenance of bridges and highways. What happened to the “earmarked” funds from the gas tax? We know. The General Assembly spends it. And, it is easier to push through a tax than to exercise fiscal restraint.
Now, Gov. Ned Lamont is pushing through a proposal to erect toll gantries in various parts of the state, but we are told these will be for trucks and commercial vehicles only. Really? This is the “camel’s nose in the tent.”
Let’s take this idea. First off, trucks will be able — to a greater or lesser degree — avoid many of the tolls. Those tolls that are paid will result in increased costs not for the trucking companies per se, but for the consumers who purchase those products transported. The ripple effect will make families and individuals pay more.
We are told by assembly officials, particularly Sen. Martin Looney, majority leader, no one should fear expansion of the tolls to cars. Maybe not now, maybe not in five years, but we know how these things work. Make no mistake, this is the “camel’s nose in the tent.” Getting people used to seeing toll gantries is the first step, along with sequestering those tolls to only commercial vehicles.
As with the gas tax and other levies earmarked for roads and bridges (think driver’s licenses, registration, etc.), the revenue is too enticing for a state that cannot curb its budgetary bloating. Remember when the income tax was passed. The General Assembly passed with it a 2 percent spending cap – one that was ignored and now is all but moot.
We live in a state bleeding residents. Yet, instead of finding ways to curb spending and reorganize governing, we find more ways to raise revenues.
We don’t believe the mandarins of the General Assembly telling us this will not lead to toll expansion. The temptation is too great. They will find a way to expand the tolls, and residents will be forced, again, to foot the bill for the legislature profligacy.