HARTFORD, CT — A coalition of organizations invested in the future of Connecticut’s roads has launched a paid media campaign, including a television ad that supports adding tolls to Connecticut’s highways.
The Connecticut Construction Industries Association, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, the CT Laborers’ District Council, and the CT Ready-Mixed Concrete Association are all members of Move CT Forward, the entity that purchased the ads.
The TV ad pits Lamont’s proposal to add tolls to four Connecticut highways against the Republican proposal to prioritize general obligation bonding in a way that favors transportation infrastructure, when the head of the Connecticut Construction Industries believes it will need to be a combination of both to get the state through the next five years.
The narrator in the ad says Connecticut can “Borrow and tax our way out of this crisis … putting taxpayers on the hook to fund repairs and repay billions in debt and interest. Or put tolls on major highways to provide the funding we need.”
The narrator goes onto say: “With tolls, trucks and out-of-state drivers will pay more, we will pay less. And taxpayers will get a break. Connecticut needs to fix our roads now, our families’ safety depends on it.”
Last year, the same coalition purchased ads that did not openly advocate for tolls, but called upon lawmakers to come up with a solution to the Special Transportation Fund crisis. The fund was on the verge of insolvency and didn’t have enough money to support a bond sale.
Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said things have changed since last year.
The election is over, voters approved the lockbox for the Special Transportation Fund, and “the governor is showing some real leadership on the issue this year,” Shubert said Tuesday.
However, Shubert says the bipartisan deal to use $250 million in general obligation bonds on transportation, in addition to the transfer of the new car sales tax, needs to stay in place this year or the state risks falling behind on the current “state of good repairs.”
Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration, however, is still not convinced it’s good policy to use $250 million in general obligation bonds and money from the new car sales tax.
Lamont wants to raise an additional $800 million a year through tolls on four highways to help pay for improvements to Connecticut infrastructure. At the same time, he wants to put about $500 million to $600 million less on Connecticut’s credit card each year.
Without the use of additional bond funds, Lamont’s plan to install tolls won’t help much in the short-term, according to Shubert.
Shubert pointed to the Feb. 7, 2019, memo from the Department of Transportation, which details what would happen if the $250 million in general obligation bonds disappears.
Shubert suggested that the state needs to embrace the Republican plan to prioritize bonding until it can get the gantries up and start collecting toll revenue.
That same DOT memo pointed out that the time to plan, obtain regulatory approvals, design, and construct a system of tolls has been estimated to take four years with partial revenue service in the fifth and sixth year. The full revenue would be achieved in year seven.
“Raising the state’s gas tax or borrowing to simply add hundreds of millions of dollars will only leave Connecticut taxpayers footing the bill for fixing our roads and bridges,” said David Jarvis, business representative and organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. “There are real, fair solutions out there that do not unfairly burden Connecticut residents.”
Fifty-seven percent of Connecticut’s roads are in poor condition, and over a third of Connecticut’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
“Failure to make necessary repairs on our aging roads and bridges puts every single Connecticut resident at risk,” said Keith Brothers, Business Manager of the CT Laborers’ District Council. “This campaign is meant to ensure that people get the real facts on available options so they can decide what is the fairest, best way for Connecticut to fix its infrastructure crisis.”
Shubert maintained that they would like to avoid the politics of the discussion.
“We’re just trying to balance out some of the discussion,” he said.
He said they want to use the ads to offer an objective position.
Patrick Sasser, an organizer with No Tolls CT, said his organization doesn’t have the money for television ads and has opted for a more grassroots approach to their campaign.
They have raised about $6,800 with their GoFundMe account, which is linked on their website.
Sasser’s group has been successful in getting more than a dozen towns to pass anti-toll resolutions. The group also has posted an online petition that says more than 96,000 people have signed.