SECOND LOOK: State toll controversy needs more planning

Published on Wednesday, 11 July 2018 19:24
Written by Art Secondo

Now that the subject of highway tolls has dwindled itself into a state of limbo, allow me to vent some frustration on the topic.

Initially, many citizens supported the idea of finally getting some income from all those motorists and truckers who cross our borders.

Also, considering the bleak financial state of our government in Hartford, it was appealing to install several E-Zpass terminals perhaps on I-84 and I-95.

After all, the public was not getting a full rendition of the toll proposal. Instead, all they saw was legislators during newscasts saying tolls were needed and boasting about the millions of dollars tolls would bring into state coffers.

Sound pretty interesting, right? Wrong.

The problem was that the state itself did not have any plan or the particulars of what it what take to rake in all those millions of dollars.

For months, the public speculated that perhaps it would take a dozen or so toll locations. We all assumed the toll locations would not involve stretches of expensive concrete barriers, signage and personnel.

Technology now makes toll collections easy; just drive a bit slower and cameras would record your license plate.

Furthermore, support grew for tolls when top legislators began to support the idea after being against the plan.

Who could argue about basically taxing out-of-town vehicles like other states? Then, to make the subject more appealing, legislators came up with the idea to give locals a 30 percent discount from toll fees.

The public remained naive. Not everyone knew about how E-Zpass worked. Most of the East Coast is littered with E-Zpass electronic cameras.

These systems use a small radio transponder mounted on a customer’s vehicle to deduct toll fares from a pre-paid account as the vehicle passes through the toll barrier.

It sounds great, but it is not mandatory to become E-Zpass members, thus forcing construction of toll booths with state employees sticking their hand out of the booth to grab your money.

Many of us were convinced a dozen or so toll booths would eventually collect enough money to offset expenses and guarantee the state would have enough cash to finally begin repairing bridges and older highways. Then the suspicion set in.

As expected, the toll conversation was far from over. Reports filtered out to the public that the State’s brain powers estimated it would need approximately 72 toll booths located on six highways including the lonely stretch of Route 2 that travelers use for casino visits and shoreline trips.

In an attempt to satisfy critics, the State hinted that Connecticut vehicles would get a 30 percent discount from undisclosed toll rates.

Historically, taxpayers are suspicious of tax percentages that could, and probably will be increased in a year or two. Also, 72 toll locations seem excessive on six highways. Truly excessive.

The entire toll package was prematurely discussed in public. Too many “buts and ifs” proved nothing substantial to would ease the doubts of so many taxpayers.

And, nobody has figured out how much the federal government would penalize the State in federal funds Connecticut for toll implementation.

Trucking companies are already nervous about tolls and it appears delivery costs would increase for large businesses. Employees who travel to work on these highways could face new monthly expenses.

This writer and others were originally curious about a formal plan that has not been delivered. At this moment in time, the toll controversy is a mess.

Until more studies and questions are answered, the public cannot be swayed one way or the other.

Yet, nobody has even suggested that the voters get a chance to make the final decision. If candidates for governor were smart, they would focus on the issue and take a stand and offer their own plans.

It is a shame that such a massive project that has worked in nearby states, has been tossed around like a beach ball that is quickly seeping air.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Southington Herald on Wednesday, 11 July 2018 19:24. Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2018 19:26.