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Tolling Points

Community Voices Back Tolling in Connecticut

By: 
Bill Cramer

With momentum building for a return to highway tolling in Connecticut, local news reports are beginning to focus on the “agglomeration” of support behind the initiative introduced by Governor Ned Lamont.

It’s hardly a surprise that the state’s tolling plan has drawn its share of detractors—it would be an exception to the rule if it encountered no pushback at all. But that’s all the more reason to be pleased that the pro-toll side of the story is getting out, most immediately in a story last week in the News-Times in Danbury, CT.

“Progressive advocacy groups” have been organizing via conference calls and in-person meetings, the paper reports, aiming to change hearts and minds in the only state between Maine and Virginia that doesn’t have tolls.

Serious Problem. Practical Solution.

The backbone of the Fairfield County-based group, Indivisible Electioneers, traces back to national efforts that began around mid-term elections in 2018. Now, campaigners like Jim Low of Weston, CT are following through on one of the most urgent issues facing the state.

“We all know Connecticut has a huge budget problem and no choice but to find as many sources of revenue as possible that are fair and make sense,” he said. “We cannot leave a stone unturned to meet these financial obligations.”

“We are paying to help fix their roads, and they are paying nothing to contribute to the cost of the wear and tear they are helping to produce,” co-organizer Gail Berritt of Westport said of the surrounding states. “To me, it’s a total fairness argument.”

Berritt testified at the March 6 legislative hearing that also featured IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones, and has been circulating a Mythbusters flyer developed by Angela Liptack of the Westport-based Resisters political action group.

“I do support tolls because they will replace a revenue stream that is diminishing, they are an appropriate and fair user fee, and trucks will pay more because they do more damage,” Liptack said. She added that tolling is just one piece of a larger plan to get Connecticut’s finances back on track.

“We have complicated problems and they’re complicated solutions,” she said. “We lean too quickly to criticism when someone comes up with a solution to a problem.”

Informed Community Voices

Toll advocates in Connecticut have a tough fight ahead. But their courageous stand for a pragmatic, effective solution is a great example of what happens when community members set out to learn the issues, gather the evidence, and follow where it leads.

As the News-Times notes, citing the November, 2018 Connecticut Tolling Options Evaluation Study, “a new revenue source is needed to provide sustainable and sufficient funds to improve Connecticut’s existing transportation infrastructure and finance highway improvements, such as widening of Interstate 95 between the New York State line and Bridgeport.” It really is as simple as that. But sometimes, it takes loud, independent community voices to drive the point home to policy makers and elected officials.

Get the latest on user-financed transportation! Attend IBTTA’s Summit on Finance & Policy, May 19-21 in Philadelphia.

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