WINDSOR LOCKS, CT — The Connecticut Airport Authority broke ground Thursday on a new $210 million Ground Transportation Center that will house rental car services and make them accessible from Bradley International Airport.
The “special facility bonds” that will be used to fund the project will be paid back through user fees attached to those car rentals. The new 1.4 million square foot facility will also include public parking and access to public transportation.
“I like the way you’re doing this. It’s paid for by user fees. It’s a public private partnership,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “It’s not all on the backs of the taxpayers. And I think this is a model that we ought to see going forward.”
Sounds a lot like Lamont’s proposal to install electronic tolls.
Lamont has been pushing the idea of electronic tolls since February. However, he scaled back his vision from having tolls on four highways to having tolls on maybe 10 to 15 bridges. He also agreed to dedicate some general obligation bonding for transportation as sort of a compromise.
Republican lawmakers have been uninterested in supporting any transportation proposal that includes tolls. Senate Democratic leadership has said they’re not interested in voting on legislation that doesn’t have bipartisan support.
“I keep trying,” Lamont said.
He said lawmakers come speak with him privately and say they understand the idea of a user fee or toll. They also understand “about 40 percent of that fee would be paid for by out-of-state drivers,” but “it’s a tough political vote so we just keep pushing,” he added.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Wednesday that now that Lamont can’t get the toll bill be wanted passed he’s coming up with alternatives—none of which will ever win bipartisan support.
Klarides said even if there was consideration of toll proposals a few months ago at the moment she doesn’t trust the governor or the Democrat-controlled legislature because “all they want to do is take money out of your pocket.”
She said if they decide to put up one electronic gantry on just one bridge in Connecticut once it raises enough tolls to pay for the repair of that bridge the gantry can stay up and continue collecting tolls for other transportation projects. She said that’s a deal breaker.
“Unfortunately I don’t know what Gov. Lamont believes in because it changes on a daily basis,” Klarides said. “And if he had beliefs in something they wouldn’t change regularly.”
She said they all negotiate things and have conversations about meeting in the middle, but the governor doesn’t have a vision for the state of Connecticut because it changes on a daily basis.
Lamont maintains he does have a vision for the state of Connecticut and improving infrastructure is the best way to help the economy.
“I gotta give this state a sense of momentum and a sense that this state is where they want to be,” Lamont said.
As for the idea of truck-only tolls, which Lamont said were the only type of tolls he would support on the campaign trail, it’s not going to be part of any final toll negotiation.
Lamont said the federal government has been very strict about truck-only tolls.
“They said you can’t do congestion pricing just with trucks,” Lamont said. “They’ve been very strict about that.”