HARTFORD - Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday he is working with fellow Democrats to craft a final tolling bill that addresses some of the public's concerns, such as ensuring no more than 50 overhead electronic toll collectors on four Connecticut highways.
Lamont said he and the chairmen of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee have also agreed electronic tolls would be placed only on Interstates 84, 95, 91 and Route 15. And he said there are “preliminary ideas” about how people use a Connecticut EZ-pass could pay roughly 25 to 30 cents per overhead collector, called a gantry, every six to seven miles, or 4.4 cents per mile, acknowledging that's subject to further negotiation.
“I need people to sit down with me as we go forward and negotiate this,” said Lamont, who estimates tolling will ultimately generate $800 million in additional annual transportation revenue, with 40 percent paid by out-of-state drivers.
Lamont and state lawmakers are currently piecing together parts of several tolling bills to create a final product for the full legislature to ultimately consider before the session adjourns on June 5. Once something passes, Lamont said he hopes the state will then submit a plan to the federal government for approval, adding how he was recently assured by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao that the approval process could be accelerated. He predicted tolls could be up and running in possibly two to three years instead of six or seven years.
Republicans lawmakers, the minority party in the General Assembly, voiced skepticism about the whole concept and whether a tolling bill will pass this year, criticizing the governor and lawmakers for not having ironed out the details of a contentious proposal that has sparked protests across the state.
“As it stands right now, I think it's dubious,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, of North Haven, when asked if there's enough support in the legislature to pass the legislation.
Fasano said it's clear “there is no plan” and “no idea” how much drivers will be charged, as well as other ideas. He also said it's clear Lamont and the Democrats prefer to pass a bill authorizing tolling and then “let the bureaucrats determine how our constituency is going to priced. We're going to have no part of it.”
“They are going to determine how much they're going to charge without one legislator weighing in. How disrespectful could you be,” asked Fasano, adding how Lamont's news conference on Wednesday was “a desperate attempt” to get the tolling legislation back on track.