Despite his lame-duck status, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is ordering a $10 million study on placing electronic tolls on the state’s highways and finding ways to fund needed transportation improvements.
“As Connecticut’s General Assembly and next governor consider how to address the future of our state’s transportation funding, this study and plan will prove to be invaluable in their endeavor to make an informed decision,” Malloy said in announcing the study on July 17.
Although Malloy will be out of office — the Democrat is not seeking a third term — by the time the study is completed, its results could have a lasting impact on how Connecticut pays for improvements to relieve congestion and bring its highway, rail and bridge systems into good repair.
Malloy’s proposed study shocked Republican lawmakers, many of whom are steadfastly against tolling unless the state reduces other taxes, such as property and gas levies.
“On his way out the door Gov. Malloy is continuing to spend taxpayer dollars as if there was no tomorrow,” said state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven).
“This entire study controlled by his administration could be a massive waste of money,” Fasano said.
The study ordered by Malloy will specifically look at tolling on the Merritt Parkway and Interstates 95 and 84, along with other state roads. The study will include specific toll charges.
Also, the report will look at providing discounts, tax credits or other value-pricing options to Connecticut residents while ensuring that out-of-state drivers contribute their fair share. The study will also explore ways to reduce gas taxes and the environmental impact of tolling.
State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), and co-chairperson of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, also blasted Malloy’s move.
“We had hearings [this year] and the Democratic-controlled House could not even put it up for a vote because they did not have the votes,” she said.
A bill to conduct a similar study on tolling failed to gain a vote in the House or Senate due to opposition from Republicans and some Democrats.
The state has conducted numerous studies on tolling over the years, although none of those reports offered a detailed plan on where to place tolls, how much to charge and how much could be made. Estimates of tolling revenue have reached $1 billion a year, although most believe realistic projections are considerably lower.
Malloy said its time to look at tolling and an overall plan to fund transportation. The governor supported tolls this year and proposed raising gas taxes and slapping a $3 fee on new tire purchases.
“We need to be truthful with the people we were elected to represent — without transforming the way we fund our highways, we will be unable to pay for the large-scale construction and rehabilitation projects that our state needs to ensure continued safe travel while attracting businesses and growing our economy,” Malloy said.
The state’s gas tax receipts have been dropping for years as cars became more fuel-efficient and more electric cars hit the road, leaving less money to improve roads and bridges.
Boucher said she cannot support tolls unless the state also reduces or eliminates property taxes and the gas tax.
“The last time we had tolls, we didn’t even have an income tax,” she said.