Letter: Tolls beat borrowing

To the Editor:
This month, state legislators must decide how to fund maintenance and upgrades to our transportation infrastructure, for which the DoT says it needs $2 billion a year—up from the $1.2 billion that our bare-bones maintenance approach costs now. Federal dollars will cover some of the upgrade; the state will have to “find” more money to stop playing catch-up.
Does it make sense to “find” that money by borrowing (issuing bonds) at the rate of $700 million a year? This idea saddles taxpayers with a $11.2-billion cost (principal plus interest) over the next 30 years. Together with other bonding already in place, it puts us close to our state constitutionally mandated cap on borrowing ($2 billion/year).
Putting all-electronic tolls on four highways — I95, I84, I91 and portions of the Merritt Parkway — is a sensible alternative. Tolls are self-sustaining and lower cost, per dollar raised, than bonding. Estimated revenue, starting in 2024, from the current tolls concept is $800 million a year (after deducting both capital and operating expenses), 30% to 40% coming from out-of-state drivers.
With tolls, for every $1 invested in our roads, CT drivers will pay only 60 to 70 cents, because out-of-state drivers pay the rest. With bonding, CT residents foot the entire bill, paying $1.50 to $2.00 for each $1 invested, when you add the interest on all that debt.
I don’t want to pay tolls, but they’ll fund our transportation infrastructure less expensively than massive bonding. Tell your legislators to jump-start critical upgrades in the short term with limited bonding and pass legislation to implement tolls for self-sustaining funding.
Angela Liptack
Wilton Road East, April 29