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‘Trucks only tolls’ proposal moving forward, legal loophole still concerning legislators

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It looks like Governor Ned Lamont’s long-stalled ‘trucks only toll’ proposal is finally moving forward. But opponents to the proposal say language in the bill leaves room for a future where more than trucks are tolled.

RELATED: Governor Lamont releases final draft for trucks-only tolls plan

The proposal calls for tolls on 18-wheeler and tandem tractor-trailer trucks at a rate of between $6 and $13 per toll with fees 50% higher on trucks without a Connecticut ‘E-Z Pass.’

Five of the tolls in the proposal are to be located on bridges on Intersate-95, and three on bridges on I-84. Additionally, one each on I-91, I-395, and I-684 in Greenwich.

In two places in the bill there is language that says the tolls can only be imposed on large trucks, but there also appears to be standard language regarding state borrowing that says if there is an emergency declaration, that can be changed by a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

For weeks, lawmakers have been driving the narrative that language in the Transportation bill would be focused only on trucks. But those with a keen eye say they were expecting to be broadsided.

Patrick Sasser from ‘No Tolls Connecticut’ says “they left provisions in there in a way to get out easy that they can change this and toll everyone.”

Sasser, the loudest voice against tolls, is referring to a section of the draft bill – buried among the 32 pages. The lawmakers could break legal language on which Governor Ned Lamont has been hanging his hat.

“Some are calling this an ‘escape hatch’. I think they’ve written bits and pieces into this bill that gives them an out – if the truck only tolls doesn’t generate enough revenue, if the Rhode Island case loses in court. It gives them the ability to flip a switch and start tolling cars.”

– Patrick Sasser, No Tolls CT

The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven) expressing the fears of anti-toll protesters, saying, “The bottom line is, after two years we could very well see cars and all trucks tolled in Connecticut without the fear of a bond covenant stopping it…They are leaving the door wide open to tolling cars.”

Senator Looney also admits a future legislature could expand the tolls to cars, but that because there appears to be no appetite for that among the public, he says it’s unlikely.

The trucking industry says that at least five of the proposed tolling locations are easily avoided by truckers.

“Many of them, it just takes, get off on the highway or take a different route that adds two minutes.”

– Joe Sculley of the Connecticut Motor Transport Association

There is a bond bill tied to the Transportation bill. The bond package has been increased to $1.7 Billion dollars. Senator Len Fasano believes this is a ‘sweetener’ to get votes for the transportation bill.

An informational hearing is scheduled for 1:00 pm on Friday, January 31 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. A vote on the bill could come as early as next week. Lawmakers have been told to hold open next Monday and Tuesday for possible votes.

Read the full proposal below:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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