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Connecticut Still Wants A Toll For Trucks On I-684

Patch logo Patch 12/8/2019 Lanning Taliaferro
a close up of a bridge © Provided by Patch

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont made a pitch to legislative leaders late Friday with more concrete details about a truck-only tolling plan to help pay for repairs to the Nutmeg state's crumbling bridges. His plan still includes a toll gantry — for trucks only — on the mile-long sliver of I-684 that is in Connecticut.

I-684 is the "interstate highway" that runs down the east side of Putnam and Westchester counties. That's Westchester County, New York. The highway runs from Brewster (in New York) to Rye Brook (in New York).

The toll plaza would go in a part of I-684 that does not include exits or entrances. The toll gantry would be sandwiched between the exit for the Westchester County Airport to the south and the exit for Armonk, home of IBM, to the north.

The average toll rate for a truck equipped with a transponder would be $8, according to details released Friday by Lamont.

That’s much less than New York State’s $25.49 rate.

a close up of a map: Google maps © Provided by Patch Google maps

Lamont last month pitched a toll plan for all vehicles, but was met with resistance from his own party. House Democratic leaders pitched a truck-only plan which Lamont then adopted. However, Republican legislative leadership said truck-only tolls could come under legal fire from the trucking industry, which is currently battling Rhode Island over their truck-only tolls.

The governor is proposing following Rhode Island’s lead with commercial truck tolls on 12 bridges. He said the plan is in line with federal rules. He noted that the U.S. General Accounting Office and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found that a five-axle tractor-trailer does as much damage to highways as 9,600 passenger cars.

However, Republican Senate leader Len Fasano said Lamont should cancel the plan on his truck-only plan after a federal appeals court decision that was reached Thursday.

“Tolling trucks sets us up for failure and leads us down a path to car tolls,” Fasano said. “A lawsuit creates serious financial risk for taxpayers and the governor’s plan could leave Connecticut with little choice but to expand tolls to cars to avoid legal jeopardy.”

Republican lawmakers have been steadfast in their opposition to any tolls in Connecticut. Instead they have pitched taking money out of the state’s rainy day fund where it earns minimal interest and using the money to pay down debt obligations where there is a bigger return on investment. Lamont has criticized the plan and said it could leave Connecticut vulnerable during a recession.

Lamont said the Rhode Island ruling was more procedural than anything and didn’t discuss the merits of the case.

“Senator Fasano either misunderstands or is greatly exaggerating the court’s decision for political gain,” he said. “This federal circuit court decision, which is not binding in Connecticut, has simply held that truckers may bring their meritless claims in federal court as well as state court.”

The locations of the tolls would be as follows:

  • I-95 in five spots ranging from lower Fairfield County to the Gold Star Bridge. Specifically, I-95 Over Stamford Metro-North Railroad, I-95 Over Rt. 33, I-95 Over West Haven Metro-North Railroad, I-95 Over Rt. 161, and I-95 Gold Star Bridge Over Thames River
  • I-395: I-395 Over Moosup River
  • I-684: I-684 Over Byram River
  • Route 8: Route 8 Four Bridges South of I-84 Interchange
  • I-91/Route 15 interchange: I-91/Route 15 New Interchange 29 Structures at Charter Oak Bridge
  • I-84 over the Housatonic River and the Rt. 8 interchange. Specifically, I-84 Rochambeau Bridge Over Housatonic River and I-84 Stack Bridges at I-84 & Rt. 8 Interchange.

Lamont went on to write in his letter to leaders: "Action on this consensus proposal will allow Connecticut to invest at least $19.4 billion in our infrastructure with more to come if the Budget Reserve Fund exceeds the responsible, bipartisan threshold of 15 percent.

"With that investment, we will be able to replicate the success of recent enhancement projects, like the improvements to I-84 in Waterbury that reduce rush-hour commutes by 26 minutes and monthly car crashes by more than 90 percent or the opening of the Hartford Line that provides thousands of residents every day with a relaxed, reliable, and sustainable alternative to I-91, across the state.

"Although the consensus proposal cannot fully realize the CT2030 vision I put forward last month, I am confident that my administration will be able to work with you and with our constituents to prioritize the appropriate projects from that vision and to double down on our commitment to a transportation plan that works for Connecticut’s working families, including those who bus, bike, or walk to work and around their neighborhoods. Projects like those to remove stop lights from Route 9 in Middletown, replace century-old bridges along the MetroNorth tracks, and redesign bus service in and between our cities will spur growth and save time--giving all Connecticut residents what they deserve: more time with their families, less time on the road or tracks, and ready access to good jobs in a growing economy.

"As I wrote earlier this week, I believe our constituents deserve action on this proposal in short order. I know you share the same sense of urgency, and I appreciate the public statements many of you made to that effect. I remain committed to prioritize myself and my administration to see this through and look forward to working in continuous collaboration with each of you," Lamont wrote.

Earlier this year Lamont proposed a plan with 50 toll gantries, but it failed to get momentum in the state legislature. Lamont is proposing that tolling start in 2023 with 40 percent of toll revenue being shouldered by out-of-state drivers.

By Rich Scinto, Patch Staff

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