Letter: Bonding for transportation costs is dangerous
To the Editor:
Connecticut’s legislature will soon meet in a special session. If tolls are not on the agenda to fund transportation infrastructure, Nutmeggers should be upset. The suggested alternative — bonding (borrowing) — will negatively impact all residents, drivers or not, for decades. The increased debt will mean higher taxes, as well as cutbacks on state funding for quality-of-life projects to deliver clean water, promote our economy and build schools and senior housing. The borrowing will come with higher interest rates — and still leave the state’s lockbox-protected Special Transportation Fund headed for insolvency.
Tolls are a pay-as-you go solution to upgrade our state’s infrastructure without increasing the state’s (taxpayers’) debt burden. More than 300 of our bridges — including overpasses — need major work. Bridges and roads take an intense daily beating from 18-wheel trucks, and although truckers’ fees and federal transportation funds help with the repair costs, Connecticut taxpayers pay most of the expense. The problem isn’t just trucks: I-84 was built to handle 50,000 vehicles daily; it now carries 180,000.
The proposed legislation gives D.O.T. the go-ahead to develop a self-funding toll plan with legislative oversight and public input on toll placement, rates and discounts. The resulting revenue, 40 percent from out-of-state drivers who also use our roads, can both cover transportation infrastructure debt service and provide ongoing money for maintenance and improvements. All tolls revenue is required, by federal law, to go to transportation and is safe from diversions to the general fund.
As proposed, all-electronic tolling — approximately 50 gantries, four highways, discounts for all Connecticut drivers — could generate $800 million in toll revenue, net of capital and operating expenses. Recognizing that the middle class is squeezed, Gov. Ned Lamont proposes coupling the tolls plan with an income tax reduction for households earning $100,000 or less and, when toll revenues start flowing, lowered fares for public busses, state-wide.
Nutmeggers need a sensible compromise on bonding and tolls. Our legislators can be heroes for funding our infrastructure, cutting taxes for the middle class and making public transportation more affordable for those who don’t drive. Pick up your phone and tell them to implement tolls now.
Wilton Road East, July 15