Lamont tolls plan a very heavy lift for some Democrats

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Governor Ned Lamont’s plan to solve the state’s transportation infrastructure problems is turning into a very heavy lift for Democrats, and part of the reason is that the highway tolls plan for I-95, 91, 84 and the parkways still does not have a lot of specifics.

The Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), said Thursday that many Democratic members of the House are concerned about what the potential toll discounts will be for Connecticut residents and regular commuters, and they are also concerned about giving control over toll rates to the D.O.T. in the future.

He added, “They want to maximize the in-state discounts. They don’t want to give any agency or department a blank check with no oversight.”

Both of those issues may be difficult to solve because it would take six to nine months to get the federal government to approve any tolling plan.

That’s why the Governor’s proposal gives a range of three to five cents per mile for tolls and estimates that instate residents could get a discount of 20 percent and 30 percent for regular commuters. 

“We need to insure that the rates are not so high that people get off the highway and start traveling on local roads, but not so low as to make it so they’re not thinking about alternative means of transportation,” said Rep. Roland Lemar (D-New Haven), the co-chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.

But Republicans said that any tolls, especially on Route 95 in Southwest Connecticut will easily cause both of those problems so getting federal approval is unlikely. 

Related Content: Tolling bill advances as details still remain unfinished

Rep. Laura Devlin (R-Fairfield) is the ranking Republican on the Transportation Committee and said, “That is nothing but a recipe for back road traffic and congestion.”

She noted that it would make traffic on Route 1 in Southern Connecticut even worse than it already is.

She added, “Absolutely, Route 1 and other roads.”

But the Governor said Thursday that he believes federal transportation officials will agree to some version of his plan eventually.

He added, “I’m very certain that we’re going to be able to get our plan through transportation and get something up and running in the next two or three years here.”

One of the top Democrats involved in trying to finalize the Governor’s toll plan said they want a plan that will get federal approval on the first review, and that’s proving to be a tall order. 

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