DOT could raise rates and 5 more things we learned from a draft of Gov. Ned Lamont’s truck-only toll bill
Hartford Courant |
Jan 10, 2020 | 5:05 PM
Gov. Ned Lamont is still pushing his plan for truck-only tolls at 12 bridges on six highways across the state. He speaks here outside the state Capitol as anti-toll demonstrators hold signs from inside the building. The state transportation department would have the power to raise toll rates, starting in 2024, based on a working draft of a truck-only tolls bill that lawmakers plan to vote on next week.
That provision could prove to be controversial as anti-toll advocates say that legislators — not unelected officials — should be the ones to raise toll rates in the future.
The draft, obtained by the Courant, does not call for towns where toll gantries are located to share in toll revenue. Under previous versions, towns would have received 5% of the toll revenue. But that incentive came in a proposal to toll cars and trucks, generating far more revenue.
Estimates of how much the state would collect from truck-only tolls have ranged from $150 million to $200 million a year. The money would help fund a 10-year, $19.4 billion transportation plan.
“I think we’re going to have an agreed-upon bill very soon — this weekend — and we’ll be getting together with the leadership very early next week and hopefully bringing it to a vote," Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday.
Spokesmen for House and Senate Democrats said no final schedule has been set but sources said a hearing on the bill could be held as soon as Tuesday with a vote as early as Wednesday.
The toll debate at the state Capitol has carried on for nearly a year, but Democratic leaders said this week after discussing Lamont’s latest proposal with rank-and-file legislators that they believed the had the votes to pass it.
The 15-page draft includes the following:Only large tractor-trailers
Tolls would only be paid by large tractor-trailer trucks, according to the draft. There would be no tolls, for example, for FedEx and UPS delivery trucks or oil trucks that deliver to homes.
Even with fewer trucks paying tolls overall than under previous plans, Lamont said that officials still expect the state to raise sufficient revenue.
"We’re following Rhode Island’s example — the big tractor-trailer trucks — taking their law, a law that’s been in operation a couple of years,'' Lamont said Friday.DOT could increase toll rates
The draft states that the state transportation department "may change the fees for using the bridges,'' as long as the increases are not above the inflation rate or the National Highway Construction Cost Index, whichever is higher.
The highest prices would be charged on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge on the Groton-New London border and the Charter Oak Bridge off I-91 in Hartford. The base rate would be $12.80 for trucks with a Connecticut-issued E-ZPass. Those without a transponder would pay 50% more.12 bridges would be tolled
Tolls would be located at the following sites:
I-84 over the Housatonic River on the Newtown-Southbury border, which is known locally as the Rochambeau Bridge
The so-called Mixmaster at the intersection of Routes 84 and 8 in Waterbury
I-84 over Berkshire Road in West Hartford
The Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford
I-95 over Metro-North Commuter Railroad bridge in Stamford
I-95 over Route 33 in Westport
I-95 over Metro-North railroad in West Haven
I-95 over Route 161 in East Lyme
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge between Groton and New London on I-95 over Thames River
I-395 over the Moosup River in Plainfield
I-684 over the Byram River in western Greenwich
Route 8 south of I-84 in Waterbury
No “personally identifiable toll customer information” that is collected by the state can be sold or released publicly, including names, addresses, license plates, photographs and credit card numbers of the customers paying the toll. The information will not be subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act, according to the draft. But the information could be disclosed in special circumstances, for example, in relation to a search warrant or subpoena in a criminal case.Punishing ‘toll evaders’
Those who skip out on paying tolls could face fines as high as $3,000 if they don’t pay up after a series of notices. And the bill says the state Department of Motor Vehicles “shall not issue or renew the motor vehicle registration” of violators until the tolls have been paid.
Some Senate Democrats said one of their conditions for voting for tolls would be improvements in the state’s effort to hire minority contractors. The draft calls for an analysis of “state contracts of small contractors and minority business enterprises” and whether enough contracts have been awarded to those firms. The yearlong study would then be submitted to the legislature’s labor, transportation and government administration committees for legislative action in the 2021 session.