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December 10, 2019 10:15 AM, EST

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont Proposes Truck Tolls

Ned LamontNed Lamont via Jessica Hill/Associated Press

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A trucks-only tolling system in Connecticut is part of the latest iteration of Gov. Ned Lamont’s transportation investment plan.

The governor sent lawmakers a letter Dec. 6 outlining his plan for commercial truck tolls on 12 bridges carrying some important routes, such as state routes 8 and 15 as well as interstates 84, 95, 395 and 684.

This proposal is projected to finance $19.4 billion for infrastructure investment.

Rates would vary based on location and truck type. For example, the proposed base rate to cross the I-95 bridge over SR 33 would be $6.40 for a heavy truck with a transponder and $8 for a heavy truck using the registered video tolling method. Video tolls use an image of a license plate to bill a vehicle.

“Increasing the contributions those tractor-trailers and trucks like them make to our Special Transportation Fund will allow Connecticut to implement a multimodal vision for our transportation future that reduces the congestion plaguing everyday commuters as well as the trucking industry,” Lamont said in his letter. 

Connecticut hasn’t had tolls in place since the late 1980s; they were removed after a fatal truck crash at a toll plaza.

Lamont’s letter was delivered just a few weeks after lawmakers in the House of Representatives put forth a plan suggesting trucks-only tolls. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) issued a proposal Nov. 19 asking Lamont to consider trucks-only tolls on 12 of the 14 sites outlined in CT2030, the governor’s transportation plan that was presented Nov. 7.

Joseph Sculley

Sculley

Motor Transport Association of Connecticut President Joe Sculley has been a staunch opponent of the tolls. Connecticut’s neighbor, Rhode Island, has a trucks-only tolling program that has stoked the ire of the trucking community.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled Dec. 5 that the trucking industry’s lawsuit against Rhode Island’s trucks-only tolling system is valid and can proceed in federal court. The court ruled that the lawsuit is not barred by the Tax Injunction Act, which restricts the power of federal district courts to prevent the collection or enforcement of state taxes.

American Trucking Associations, Cumberland Farms Inc. and M&M Transport Services Inc. filed the initial lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of trucks-only tolling July 10. New England Motor Freight also was part of the lawsuit but has since declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and shut down operations.

RELATED: Trucking Scores a Win in Rhode Island Tolls Case

The lawsuit argued that trucks-only tolls discriminate against interstate commerce. If a state charges a user fee for access to channels of interstate commerce, that fee has to be a fair approximation of use and cannot discriminate between in-state and out-of-state interests.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) urged Lamont to call off his trucks-only tolling plan in light of the appeals court’s decision regarding Rhode Island. However Lamont indicated that Rhode Island will still prevail in federal court.

“[The] federal circuit court decision in Rhode Island was merely a procedural ruling regarding whether this case should be heard in a federal or state court — nothing more,” Lamont said. “The ruling says nothing about the strength of the underlying legal challenge to trucks-only tolls, which far from being a burden on interstate commerce are a common-sense way to benefit that commerce by asking the in- and out-of-state commercial trucks that do the most damage to our roads to pay their fair share of maintenance and congestion mitigation projects.”

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