WILLIMANTIC, CT — Transportation infrastructure and regional partnerships dominated the conversation Tuesday between Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo at Eastern Connecticut State University.
“Whether you’re talking about roads or bridges or trains they don’t really care about the borders,” Baker said.
Connecticut is the only state of the three that doesn’t have any electronic toll gantries.
Raimondo said it took her two legislative sessions to convince Rhode Island’s legislature to approve truck-only tolls in her state. She encouraged Lamont to keep pushing the issue.
“It’s a battle and when the battle is done we start putting in the transportation structure for the 21st century, the battle goes in the rearview mirror pretty quickly,” Lamont said.
Lamont said Baker and Raimondo reminded him that the “battle is never over.”
“I encouraged the governor to continue his push,” Raimondo said.
She said that a couple of years from now the controversy will go away but “the lasting impact of better infrastructure will be there for decades.”
Lamont has floated a compromise on tolls to legislative leaders, but so far no agreement has been reached.
Lamont said he understands the tendency of the legislature to try to “borrow our way out of our transportation crisis,” but he’s not convinced that’s going to work.
“I believe electronic tolling is a big part of the solution paid for by users,” Lamont added. “Thanks to my friends in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who might be able to contribute a little bit as part of that and if bonding is considered part of the solution I’ll consider that a compromise.”
Lamont said the one thing Connecticut has in common with Massachusetts and Rhode Island is its 100-year-old infrastructure.
“If we’re going to keep economic growth here we’ve got to speed up our rail. We’ve got to end the gridlock,” Lamont said.
The governors spent two hours talking behind closed doors Tuesday before addressing the media in an auditorium at ECSU.
The next meeting between the three governors will occur in Rhode Island in October.