HARTFORD, CT – Gov. Ned Lamont urged swift action on his modified CT2030 transportation plan, which is projected to raise about $230 million a year in truck-only tolls for a total of $1.8 billion over eight years.
The average “heavy truck,” which is defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a single trailer with three to seven or more axles, would pay an average of $8 across 12 bridges. “Medium trucks,” which would include buses, would also be charged a toll of between $1.56 and $3.13 under the financial detail Lamont’s office released.
“No one uses our roads more frequently than the truckers,” Lamont said Monday. “They do extraordinary damage to our roads and they’re going to contribute a little bit more.”
Lamont said he’s confident that members of the General Assembly have all the details they need to vote on the plan in a special session.
“They know exactly how we’re going to pay for it. They know exactly what those rates would be in trucks,” Lamont said. “They know it’s limited to one-time per gantry so the small delivery guys in Connecticut will not be disadvantaged that way. They know the list of projects that we can take care of and how that’s going to be done.”
What language is in the proposal to ensure the tolls won’t apply to passenger vehicles?
“If people are really nervous about that, as part of the bond covenant we have with the feds we can put in any protections people want,” Lamont said.
The Republicans have proposed an alternative plan that would use about $1.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to pay down pension debt, and would not include tolling.
Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said there is one risk with the Republican plan – draining the Rainy Day Fund at the same time a recession hits. However, he said it’s a risk they should be able to manage with close monitoring.
Fasano said Lamont’s plan also includes risk because it depends on the use of surplus funds over the next four years and there is a potential lawsuit from the truckers.
“If he loses to the truckers he’s going to have to pay back all the money he received,” Fasano said Monday.
But Lamont remained steadfast.
“Action on this consensus proposal will allow Connecticut to invest at least $19.4 billion in our infrastructure with more to come if the Budget Reserve Fund exceeds the responsible, bipartisan threshold of 15 percent,” Lamont wrote in a letter to legislators Friday. “With that investment, we will be able to replicate the success of recent enhancement projects, like the improvements to I-84 in Waterbury that reduce rush-hour commutes by 26 minutes and monthly car crashes by more than 90 percent or the opening of the Hartford Line that provides thousands of residents every day with a relaxed, reliable, and sustainable alternative to I-91, across the state.”
Lamont said he is not deterred by the federal appeals court decision to allow the American Trucking Association’s lawsuit against Rhode Island to move forward. The trucking association challenged the constitutionality of truck-only tolls under the U.S. Commerce Clause.
“I am asking the legislature to act on our consensus proposal to follow Rhode Island in implementing commercial truck tolls on 12 bridges meeting strict federal criteria,” Lamont said. “I am confident that the legal arguments for truck tolls will prevail, providing Connecticut with the much needed revenue to make the right investments in our state’s future.”
Patrick Sasser, founder of No Tolls CT, said there’s no one who knows what will happen in court.
“Trying to push through a toll plan that is already being challenged in court is foolish and irresponsible,” Sasser said. “Let the case make its way through the courts, before going any further on tolls.”
Joe Scully, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said Monday that there is no need to toll at least two of the 12 locations because the work to reinforce the Mixmaster in Waterbury on I-84 and the work on the Charter Oak Bridge is already underway and being paid for with bond funds.
“Tolls are only proposed for those locations because they are high traffic areas which are perfect for taking money from highway users, and spending the revenue on other purposes,” Sculley said.
Sculley continued: “This is a plan to demonize and target an important industry in order to divert (pun intended) attention away from constant misuse of the Special Transportation Fund. If enacted, this will ultimately end in cars being tolled as well, either because the revenue projections are inaccurate, the plan is unconstitutional, or both.”
Sculley maintained that it’s not true that trucks cause more damage than cars.
Sculley cited the National Academy of Science’s Transportation Research board, which has stated that “when a highway is properly designed, it presumably will require only routine surface maintenance throughout its service life provided the expected number of axle load repetitions is not exceeded. In other words, it will not be damaged by the traffic it is designed to support. This is an important point because there are prevalent misconceptions that trucks damage pavements more than passenger cars.”
Other studies say trucks do cause a substantial amount of damage, especially if they weigh more than the interstate maximum of 80,000 pounds.
The Congressional Budget Office found in an October 2019 report that pavement damage sharply increases with trucks’ weight per axle. It had previously found in 2011 that pavement damage by trucks ranges from 5 to 55 cents per mile, depending on the weight of the truck and the number of axles.