Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Sen. Carlo Leone co-chairs the Transportation Committee (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — The Transportation Committee voted Friday to draft legislation that creates an authority to oversee Connecticut’s infrastructure projects.

“What will this bill actually do?” Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, asked.

CLICK TO VOTE ON 2019 SB 423: An Act Concerning The Creation Of A Connecticut Transportation Authority.

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Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, said the bill is a concept bill to keep the idea alive.

The bill as currently called for would have the General Assembly “create a Connecticut Transportation Authority, which would oversee and prioritize transportation projects.”

Leone said, “This will give us an opportunity to address any concerns.”

Many worry it’s a baby step toward establishing tolls.

“It’s no secret that this is one of the biggest issues in our state,” Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, said.

The committee voted by voice to draft the bill as a committee bill.

The bill has not been drafted yet so it’s unclear exactly what an authority would look like, however, toll opponents are concerned it would move the creation of a tolling structure away from an elected General Assembly to an unelected group of individuals.

In past years, lawmakers have sought to pass legislation that would study tolls while creating an authority with the power to implement tolls and set toll rates, removing the power from the General Assembly.

Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said Monday that if these transportation authorities are so great then how come none of them have any money?

He also asked why the state of Connecticut would want to “abdicate” all of its control to an unelected board that’s going to establish tolls on almost every highway in the state?

“This is worse than just tolls,” Sculley said. “If people want tolls then put up a tolls bill and just vote for it. Don’t try to go through this quasi-government body.”

Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti testified Wednesday against the creation of an authority to oversee tolls.

He said if the General Assembly wants to create an authority to oversee tolls, it’s essentially “adding a layer of management, a layer of costs.”

He said unless there was a reason to create an authority, then he doesn’t recommended it. Gov. Ned Lamont also was not wedded to the idea and said it’s something that could be negotiated.

Giulietti said he would be reluctant to create a body that doesn’t have a direct connection with the legislature and the Office of Policy and Management.