Connecticut Tolling Plan Offers $1 Billion in Projected Revenue

The Merritt Parkway, or Route 15, is among the Connecticut highways being considered for tolls.

The Merritt Parkway, or Route 15, is among the Connecticut highways being considered for tolls. Shutterstock

 

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A report released by the state shows some of the different proposed costs for commuters, out-of-state truckers and others using the proposed tolled routes.

As state governments continue to face constrained sources of revenue to fund transportation projects, some have been interested in adding tolls to highways that are currently free.

It’s a political hot potato for sure and something that isn’t a new idea in places like Connecticut, a state that faces numerous fiscal challenges and deteriorating roads and bridges.

Outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration recently released a new report showing that introducing all-electronic tolling to highways across the state would raise approximately $1 billion annually.

The current way to raise revenue for transportation in Connecticut hasn’t been working, the state acknowledges.

“Governor Malloy’s Transportation Finance Panel concluded that current revenues are insufficient to maintain our roads and bridges or to remove traffic bottlenecks and reduce congestion and recommended tolls as one way of generating new revenue,” CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said in a statement.

Much of what is today’s Interstate 95 in Connecticut was built as a tolled turnpike, but tolls were removed in 1985.  

Highway corridors in Connecticut where the introduction of tolls are being evaluated. (via Connecticut Department of Transportation)

The state’s new tolling model would include I-95, but also interstates 84, 91, 395, 691 and 291 and state routes 2, 9, 8 and 15, with all-electronic toll-collection gantries spaced approximately every 6.6 miles. According to a factsheet, the entire automated electronic tolling system covering 539 miles of highways in the state would cost an estimated $210 million to implement and operate.

As the Hartford Courant reported, Malloy’s successor, Gov.-elect Ned Lamont, has said he supports “limiting tolling,” a system that charges heavy trucks but not passenger cars.

According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, different types of drivers would be charged varying rates, with out-of-state drivers paying more than Connecticut residents.

The study examined options for implementing tolls in CT that would help pay for needed transportation infrastructure improvements.  It demonstrated that a statewide all-electronic tolling system on limited access highways could raise substantial revenue with low rates for Connecticut drivers who would be offered a discount for using a Connecticut-issued E-Z Pass plus a commuter discount if they use the highways frequently. Without a Connecticut E-Z Pass, out-of-state drivers would pay more. As a result, it is estimated that about 40 percent of toll revenue would come from out-of-state cars and trucks.   

For purposes of discussion, toll rates were developed that might be as low as 3.5 cents per mile for a frequent, off-peak car driver with a Connecticut E-Z Pass. The average trip made by a Connecticut driver on limited access highways is 12 miles. With discounts, a 12-mile toll trip would be 42 cents off-peak and 53 cents during peak hours. Charging higher rates during peak traffic periods and lower rates in the off-peak will help reduce congestion during the peak period.

Connecticut isn’t the only state considering expanded tolling to raise revenue.

Indiana is looking at tolling major corridors like interstates 65, 70 and 94. But according to the 2018 Hoosier Survey from Ball State University, only 1 in 5 Indiana residents supports adding tolls to currently free interstate highways.

Transportation officials in Oregon are looking at adding tolls to sections of I-5 and I-205 in the Portland area.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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