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August 16, 2010

Are highway tolls the answer to Connecticuts money problems?

As Connecticut residents, we are paying to maintain roads that out-of-state drivers travel for free. At a public hearing of the state legislature’s Transportation Committee, Sen. Edith Prague pointed out that Connecticut regularly receives 30,000 out-of-state visitors to its casinos alone, not to mention through-drivers on the I-95. The sad reality, however, is that although we pay some of the highest gas taxes in the country, we continue to drive on roads that are in dire need of repair.

Roads cost more than ever to build and maintain and with the economic downturn we are facing, our state is struggling we simply must find a way to make up for the declining revenue for transportation and infrastructure projects. The most logical alternative to tolls is a hike in gas tax, but this is not a feasible or even a fair alternative when Connecticut residents already pay so much in gas taxes.

If a good model for tolling is implemented in the state, Connecticut could raise millions of dollars while relieving traffic, improving roads and reducing emissions as more drivers choose to carpool. The extra 25 cents Boston area drivers may be paying to take the Massachusetts Turnpike, for example, could raise an extra $100 million in revenues for the state. There is no fairer or more direct way to charge people for their usage of roads. Furthermore, increased state revenue will mean better and safer roads.

So are highway tolls the answer to Connecticut’s money problems? Probably not, or at least not an answer that will fix all of our money problems. Yet they are definitely a viable means of securing revenue for necessary state infrastructure and road maintenance projects. If coupled with even a slight decrease in the gas tax in the state, tolls would translate into a fairer system for charging drivers for their use of Connecticut’s roads.

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