(WTNH ) — Governor Ned Lamont made a personal pitch to Republican state lawmakers Thursday afternoon to support his ‘scaled back’ state transportation plan.
Lamont’s now advocating ‘temporary tolls’ at just 14 bridges around the state in a major revision of his 50-plus tolls plan that fell flat with lawmakers earlier this year
The state’s biggest bridge, the ‘Gold Star Memorial’ between New London and Groton on I-95, would be one of the proposal’s 14 projects that would be paid for with electronic tolls.
The administration is trying to sell them as a temporary ‘user fee’ that would be phased out when the federal loans paying for them had been repaid. Lamont saying, “The Trump Department of Transportation says you need an independent source of revenues to pay for the low cost loans they’re making available to you. That’s a ‘user fee,’ those are gantries and when the loan is paid off, the gantries come down.”
It appears the Democratic House Leadership is all on board with this. House Majority Leader Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) stating, “You would have a contract with the federal government that says when we have paid you back on that loan, the tolls must come down. No legislature can go and rip up a contract that’s been signed by a previous administration.”
But State Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) notes the term of those federal loans that those ‘temporary’ electronic toll gantries would be paying back would last 20 years or longer.
Fasano explained, “They’re going to become common-place after a while and then they’re going to use that as a source of revenue, so it’s really a trust-in-government issue and no one believes they’re going to come down, and everyone believes the rates going to go up.”
The plan includes straightening out the rail lines down state to make commuting to New York faster and improvements to the Waterbury and Danbury line. Improvements Lamont thinks Republicans would have a hard time voting against.
But die hard anti-toll activists are back at the Capitol and say the temporary toll idea is not believable.
Hilary Gunn of Greenwich saying, “I don’t believe that they would ultimately be temporary, and in the meantime it’s still a tax and my position remains; no tolls in Connecticut.”
The new plan also includes extra lanes on choke points on I-95, like in West Haven, Norwalk and Stamford. Plus a regional airport in Southern Connecticut at either New Haven or Stratford.