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No, Connecticut can’t install border tolls — here’s why

When Nutmeggers think of highway tolls, they often think of border tolls, which would charge motorists entering and leaving the state of Connecticut. But that’s not what Gov. Dannel Malloy and state legislators are proposing when they call for tolls to be installed on Connecticut’s highways.

Instead, Connecticut would install congestion tolls — electronic tolling stations which would be placed along highways within the state and charge variable rates depending on the time of day and traffic congestion.

Critics have pointed out this means Connecticut residents will be paying 70 percent of the revenue collected from those tolls.

According to an I-95 congestion tolling study by the Department of Transportation, a full-length, one-way trip between New Haven and New York during peak hours would cost the commuter $6, while the same trip on the Merritt Parkway would be $5.

So why doesn’t Connecticut just install tolls along its border like it did on 1-95 decades ago?

When Connecticut removed its tolls along its border on I-95, it essentially gave those up for good. Interstate highways such as I-95 and I-84 are controlled and regulated by the Federal Highway Administration.

According to a 2009 report from the Office of Legislative Research, when Connecticut agreed to remove its tolls in 1983, it gave up its right to collect revenue from those crossing the border. On the plus side, it also meant Connecticut would receive more federal transportation dollars and the federal government would fund repairs to those interstates.

This agreement remains in effect.

“Historically, federally-aided highways have been required to be toll-free,” the OLR reports states.

The Obama administration attempted to lift this restriction in 2014 when President Obama proposed a new transportation bill, but the tolling language didn’t make it into the final law.

There are some exceptions to tolling interstates, however, congestion tolling — also known as value pricing tolls. Other exceptions include adding and tolling an HOV lane or constructing an entirely new highway, both of which would likely be cost prohibitive for Connecticut.

Congestion tolling takes place within the borders of a state and charges variable toll rates depending on congestion and time of day. During times of heavy traffic like rush hour, toll fees will be higher. This type of tolling is meant to reduce congestion by either incentivizing commuters to use highways at off-peak times or carpool.

In some cases those tolls can grow quite hefty. On January 24th the toll on Interstate 66 just outside Washington D.C. hit $46.75 for 12 minutes during the morning rush hour. That figure was just short of the I-66 record of $47.25 just six days earlier.

But, what about other states which have tolls on their highways, like the Massachusetts Turnpike?

Those highways were essentially grandfathered in when the U.S. Government created the Interstate Highway System, but the tolls meant that no federal funds would be provided for “construction, reconstruction, operation or improvement of these roads,” according to the OLR report.

Historically, states that wanted to install border tolls would be forced to pay back federal money it had received, although states rarely try since Congress established certain exceptions.

According to the OLR report, in 1984 Connecticut wanted to establish tolls on I-95 along the border with Rhode Island but was informed the federal government would require repayment of all the federal funds it had received since the previous agreement and would have to forfeit emergency funds related to the Mianus River Bridge collapse.

There have been exceptions to repayment of federal funds in the past, most notably for the New York Thruway, but it requires Congressional approval.

Unless Connecticut wants to gamble on approval by Congress and potentially have to repay large amounts of money to the federal government, its easiest option is to install congestion tolling, although it will still require some form of federal approval.

“There seems little doubt that if a toll project falling within one of the exception programs was pursued and the appropriate requirements met, federal funds repayment would not be an issue,” the report concludes. “However, if a state were to act unilaterally in a way that clearly fell outside of the available exceptions to the federal toll prohibition there is no basis to conclude that repayment of federal funding would not be a potential problem.”

However, it may prove a problem for Connecticut commuters when, instead of seeing tolls on Connecticut’s state borders, they are paying them on their way to work.

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Marc E. Fitch

(20) Comments

  1. Mike

    February 8, 2019 5:47 pm

    There were tolls before and they worked. Our food prices are dictated by the economic conditions. And chain stores . Farmers still don’t get the benefit of milk prices. Trucking companies make plenty of money off the private citizens. And they take up most of the road just try driving in the morning and see for your self.

  2. Mike

    February 8, 2019 5:47 pm

    There were tolls before and they worked. Our food prices are dictated by the economic conditions. And chain stores . Farmers still don’t get the benefit of milk prices. Trucking companies make plenty of money off the private citizens. And they take up most of the road just try driving in the morning and see for your self.

  3. MARSHALL PATCH

    January 16, 2019 7:58 pm

    At 4.4 cents a mile, my tolls annual cost would be $2,196,48, or $183/month to commute to work and back. Almost equal to my Obama Care non-compliance fine due this April. I plan to quit working in CT, and work in Mass. I will take the back roads to near the Mass line and follow I-91 for only 7.3 miles each way. I am already working 7 days a week to compensate for no raise in 8 years and I am not going to work any more then the 13 hour days I already have to work just to be broke and live check to check, one paycheck separated from starvation. Wasn’t the $0.25 per gallon gas tax supposed to go for infrastructure? CT has to worse infrastructure I’ve seen and we need to pull our troops out of the endless wars in Middle East and spend that 6 trillion we now owe on our infrastructure instead.

    • Peter Blau

      March 9, 2019 12:18 pm

      You are commuting 50,000 miles a year — 200 miles a day — on roads that will be tolled (interstates and Rt 15)? My God, you have problems far beyond tolls! Assuming you get 25 MPG and gas is $2.75, you’re spending $5500 a year on gas. You’re wearing out a car every three years, assuming 150,000 mile lifespan, for another $6666, assuming a $20,000 purchase price. You’re buying at least one new set of tires ($500) and running though maybe 3 maintenance intervals at, say, $150 a pop. That’s over $13,000/yr just getting to and from work. Not to speak of spending at least 4 hrs — half an average work day — commuting. Man, have you ever considered getting a new job…or moving?

  4. Chris Carletti

    December 20, 2018 5:07 pm

    OK I can afford it, and I hope you morons who voted for DemocRATS can too, enjoy ! Funny, most CT residents are too stupid to see the connection.

  5. Amy

    December 7, 2018 12:42 pm

    Then you wonder why everyone is moving out of Connecticut! Residents and companies……..
    Rodger I don’t think you know how much a CT trucking company pays into the state, between the little thing Clint said a 2290, IFTA, IRP Registration,etc. This state gets their money when it comes to our trucking companies. I don’t think tolls should effect OUR trucking companies.
    The toll thing I do believe should be for out of state people only. Our company pays for out of state tolls with our trucks so I don’t expect all trucking companies to get a free pass with tolls in our state, but I do hate when people hate on trucking companies. Without trucks, all of us have NOTHING! NO FOOD, NO WATER, NO CLOTHES, NO MATERIALISTIC JUNK WE ALL WANT! Why should people have to pay to drive to work especially after all the taxes they already pay? And I completely agree with Darren N with every single thing he said. The ones who voted for more tolls and more taxes need their heads checked, but in reality same as he said the ones who vote aren’t the ones paying half the taxes but reaping all the benefits….
    And is the state going to have to pay back federal funds putting tolls up. We won’t know until all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. No enough information as of yet, but for all the ones who voted this way, I hope you enjoy the years to come because I’m sure not.

  6. Anna Quirini

    November 19, 2018 2:01 pm

    By,By Foxwoods

  7. Rodger

    November 11, 2018 7:43 pm

    To the person who thinks that trucks don’t destroy road surfaces, what are you smoking? There is NO way a 3000 lbs car is going to impact a road like a 70,000 lbs Tri axle dump or an 80,000 tractor trailer combo. There are sections of RT 84 in Newtown where you can not only see the damage done by heavy vehicles, but you can feel it when you move from lane to lane. Yes we rely on trucks for our goods, but truckers/trucking companies should pay a price to maintain our road surfaces. Fuel tax alone doesn’t do it.

  8. Barrett

    November 11, 2018 12:15 am

    How about getting rid of the mill rate and have tolls subsidized by it instead and making CT residents exempt. I’m sure sales of vehicles would skyrocket.

  9. Marjorie

    November 10, 2018 8:55 pm

    The most maddening part of tolls, if we get them, is that our ruling class gets reimbursed by the tax payers for their tolls. They get mileage reimbursement for coming to a HARTFORD, I’m sure tolls will be in the package. So we get to pay TWICE!

  10. Kenneth

    November 10, 2018 4:20 pm

    Why do I only see Fairfield County and a bit of New Haven County on the map? What about the rest of the state? Will they have tolls too?

  11. Linda Erickson

    November 10, 2018 3:45 pm

    John Ausanka… and, what do you think will happen when we require trucks to pay another toll? Everything that is delivered to any stores will pass on a price hike to us.. the consumer! Nothing good will come from these tolls. Don’t be duped.

  12. Darren Nesteruk

    November 10, 2018 2:05 pm

    So the reason a state would use tolls is to build repair, replace and maintain roads/thruways. “IF” the Federal government has taken up the mantle of paying for these services in exchange for a ‘NO TOLL” policy in a/the sate. Then wouldn’t Connecticut be double dipping? Is Connecticut going to use the revenue of/from these “tolls to pay for things “other than” roads repairs, maintenance? If not what then? To make up for pensioners retirement shortfalls? This state is the toilet paper to the rt 95 corridors rear end. we who live in ct have to deal with the noise,pollution, and cost to maintain the roads yet out of staters get a free pass. Between the income tax, sales tax, property tax, and numerous ‘other’ taxes, it has become too much to bare. Those who voted for tolls, tax hikes, and against the possibility of eliminating thee burdensome income tax should be ashamed of themselves. It’s my belief that since these people voted For these things, that the same burden should be born by them and them only. I have to live in a state run by socialists. yet those who pay NO taxes reap the benefits of landlords paying for property tax, school taxes, and sewer taxes. Benjamin Franklin said “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.” . This state is doomed!!!, and if your looking to point fingers, the party to point to is the party that IS in power, and the one that will be in power. Truck Drivers make this and ANY state run. Without truck-drivers you would have NOTHING!!! They(truck-drivers) should not only be exempt from tolls, but commended for their service(s).

  13. Arthur Kittelsen

    November 10, 2018 12:45 pm

    Did anyone really believe the progressives that the tolls would he for out of staters?….please….we will be taxed as much as they can, and new state car and truck taxes, and income TAXES higher.TOTAL BAIL OUTS AND FREE GIVE AWAYS TO THE CITIES…Now dont blame Gov. LAMOUNT…..HE TOLD YOU JUST WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO….NO LIES. SO YOU DEMS THAT VOTED FOR HIM YOU HAVE ONLY YOURSELVES TO BLAME…

  14. Clint

    November 10, 2018 12:22 pm

    John Ausanka, you probably have zero clue about what a Form 2290 is…. And as stated before; if YOU bought it, WE BROUGHT IT. As a trucker I propose that every load of commodities which are to be delivered to any CT consignee should have its rate raised exorbitantly until a gallon of milk or gasoline costs us $15 per gallon, until we as citizens of CT demand that our legislature ceases completely targeting and abusing certain demographics to fill state coffers.

  15. Chris SARACENO

    November 10, 2018 7:59 am

    Why isn’t Blumenthal and Murphy, the esteemed Senators from CT, fight for CT residents to get a waiver from Congress like NY did? To busy tilting at the GunLobby Windmill? They need to go! CT deserves better!

  16. Philip J Aquilina Jr

    November 9, 2018 8:20 pm

    Norwalk wasn’t a border toll, right! Since tolls are now electronic, why can’t we exempt Ct plates? Have you seen what our roads look like at rush hour, especially on Fridays? It is getting worse by the day, is anyone looking at this?

  17. Ray

    November 9, 2018 5:57 am

    John Ausanka if it wasn’t for us truck drivers you wouldn’t have anything you own. Trucks don’t tear up the roads alone every vehicle that touches the roadway takes part

  18. Kim

    November 8, 2018 2:39 pm

    Why are Residents having to pay I thought they said it would be for out of state vehicles!

  19. John Ausanka

    July 25, 2018 7:49 pm

    Connecticut heavily subsidizes Metro North which is an alternative to paying excessive tolls. It would help to get more cars off the roads and shift some road repair costs to the truckers who tear up the roads.

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