To the Editor:
Wilton Republican Town Committee chair Bill Lalor’s article, the argument against tolls, offers no path forward for Connecticut to update our transportation infrastructure. When it comes to roads and tolls there are two items to consider: (1) do we need to improve our roads and transportation infrastructure, and (2) if so, are tolls the best financial approach? The answer to both questions is yes.
The need for improvement is real. Our roads are among the oldest and most deteriorated in the nation. Interstate 95 and the Merritt are often parking lots. Global companies won’t locate (or keep) jobs in Connecticut because of extra commuting time and hassles getting to and from New York’s airports. Commuters build in an extra 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or more when they travel at certain hours. Contractors and delivery services lose time on our roads which leads to lost business and increased charges for all of us. Potholes only make body shops happy.
Tolls are the best way to fund the necessary improvements. Around 30-40% of tolls will be paid by people from out of state, which seems fair since we pay tolls whenever we travel to New York and Massachusetts. Lalor, Toni Boucher, and several other Republicans suggest that our state should borrow the money instead. That is the most fiscally irresponsible suggestion imaginable, and shocking coming from a party that purports to be fiscally responsible. Debt on top of debt is what has gotten Connecticut into our current financial problems. Lalor and Boucher sometimes also say that the state should find the money by cutting other services, but they never tell anyone which services they are referring to–never.
Additional work needs to be done to design the tolls program. How can the program charge less for commuters, service vehicles, and people with lower income? How can surge pricing create incentives to spread out traffic when the roads are used without becoming a burden on people who need to drive during rush hours? Where should gantries be placed so that costs are shared equally and traffic patterns aren’t disrupted? All these and more are important issues to address, but they are reasons for people to be smart and creative rather than reasons for people to be obstructionist.
Governor Lamont is correct that our roads desperately need to be fixed and modernized, and that tolls are the best way to fund those improvements.
Russell D. Robbins