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Will Toll Roads Make A Comeback In Connecticut?

Highway Tolls
Tony Dejak
Motorists passing through a toll booth in Ohio in 2012.

Connecticut's perennial debate over road tolls starts again this month, but this year there is more momentum after a state panel recommended automated tolling.

Two years ago, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy said the state was in great need of infrastructure repair, $2.8 billion worth, but he had no way to pay for it.

So Malloy tapped Emil Frankel, who led Connecticut’s Transportation Department in the ‘90s and served as assistant secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush, to a special panel.

Frankel says if Connecticut wants to keep its roads open, lawmakers would have to raise the gas tax, divert a portion of sales tax toward transportation, and reinstate tolls.

"So these are essential projects and just with those I've identified, what, $15 billion? The funding sources, the revenue streams, really need to be all of the above. Suffice it to say, we need lots and lots of money to bring our infrastructure to a state of good repair."

But state Republicans are unmoved and are digging their heels in on tolls.

State Senator Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, says, "It's highly unpopular…a gas tax is actually more fair and spread out more evenly among all drives."

Boucher demurred when asked if she supported raising the gas tax. Instead she criticized state spending in other areas, such as employee pensions and health benefits. A public hearing on tolls will be set later this month, with a vote possible later in the year.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.