Should New Highway Tolls Be Introduced?
Connecticut Polls On Tolls
23 Connecticut legislatures are surveying their constituents on new highway tolls. The question arose after the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) published a study calling for 82 new tolls on Connecticut highways in November 2018. CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said, “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,” per YankeeInstitute.org.
Disclaimer: This survey was issued by 23 state legislators through their own social media and newsletters. These results are not statistically significant due to the selective ability to respond and share. However, the quantity of responses and comments provide insight into overall sentiment, top concerns, and interest in this proposal.
An Overwhelming Rejection
Respondents rejected the idea of 82 new highway tolls with resounding certainty. In total, 8,457 responses were recorded between the 23 representatives’ polls.
976 respondents said they would support these tolls, totaling 12% of responses.
7,207 respondents said they would not support these tolls, comprising 85% of recorded responses.
The remaining 274 (3%) said they were undecided.
It’s also important to note that the question was phrased slightly differently by a few representatives. While most asked their constituents, “Are you in favor of placing 82 tolls throughout Connecticut?” a variant phrasing was adopted by 3 others. They asked, “Can you, your family, and your neighbors afford 82 tolls throughout Connecticut?” This is significant because it is not technically measuring support, and these 3 polls did not offer “undecided” as an option, so yes and no were the only available choices.
Many respondents seem concerned that additional tolls will compound an existing problem: rising expenses that are forcing people to move.
“As it is Connecticut is becoming a state where most of my friends are fleeing with all the tax burdens. Now Tolls? Are they out of their minds?” asked one commenter.
“Already planning on moving within the next 2 years, can't afford to live in CT with the way the state is heading!” added another.
Some supported adding new tolls, but generally with exceptions. However, these commenters were few and far between, reflecting the lopsided results of these polls.
“82 is too much. I want zero tolls on RT 8 North of RT 34 and South of I-84 and zero tolls on I-84 between RT 8 and RT 34. They can make it up by placing a $20 toll on RT 34 at Stevenson Dam for all vehicles over 80 inches high,” one respondent said.
“I could accept tolls on east-west highways (I-95, I-395, I-84, I-691, CT-15), but not on the north-south roads like (I-91, CT-2, CT-8, CT-9). My reasoning is that the east-west roads have a large volume of out-of-state traffic; the north-south roads are really local,” said one of Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria’s constituents.
Some respondents suggested adding new tolls, but only at the state’s borders.
“Tolls at the state lines are acceptable. The other ones are ridiculous and you would be punishing average people for just trying to get to work.”
Another commenter added, “I favor about 20 tolls placed near main entrances to the state because it will bring revenue from two new sources: out of state drivers and CT residents who do not pay state income taxes.”
The Road Ahead
Connecticut’s government and its constituents seem to be at an impasse over these potential new tolls. The CTDOT argued in its report that the revenue that would be collected from these tolls is necessary to maintain Connecticut’s infrastructure, but the data collected in these 23 surveys shows that legislators may have a difficult time garnering support from their constituents for such a measure. What’s more is that many of these legislators do not support these tolls themselves, and a rift seems to be developing over this controversial proposal.
Republican lawmakers have been critical of Connecticut governor Ned Lamont, who recently proposed two different options on tolls for Connecticut’s budget: one that applies only to interstate trucks, and one where all vehicles must pay tolls (per the Connecticut Post). As debate rages on, Lamont recently wrote an Op-Ed defending his stance on tolls.