Tolls are not Magic Pills

The morning of Thursday, March 22nd, I tuned in the morning news on WTNH-TV, Channel 8 out of New Haven, Connecticut—Channel 8 gives me a good weather and traffic perspective for New Haven and Fairfield Counties—I live in one and work in the other, hence my commute.  Although I take the train, during my busy season I have to drive down State Route 8 to
Stratford as the Waterbury branch of Metro-North has very limited service.  Channel 8 covered a story stating that Governor Malloy wants to a $1.4 million dollar study to determine if (electronic) tolls on I-95 would reduce traffic congestion.  Governor, kindly stop the survey and put the $1.4 million to paying off our state’s debt.

Tolls, even all electronic high-speed EZ Pass transponder readers, are not magic pills that make traffic disappear.  Yes, the implementation of toll collection utilizing such devices will reduce traffic on the interstate.  But it will divert it onto U.S.-1 (Boston Post Road) and other back roads as GPS can tell even out of state vehicles how to go around the toll pass readers.  It should be obvious that traffic on the interstate versus traffic on U.S. -1 in the commercial districts where there on average a traffic signal every ten feet and in residential neighborhoods on arterial and secondary roads, keeping it on the interstate is the lesser of the two evils.  Governor Malloy does not need to waste $1.4 million of an already debt-ridden state of something that can be resolved by run-of-the-mill common sense.

In 2008, I attended a moratorium hearing regarding resuming toll collection in the state of Connecticut; the Nutmeg State has been toll-free since 1985 due to a deadly tractor-trailer accident at a toll plaza in Stratford.  Although it is a burden on already maxed-out taxpayers (Connecticut pays among the highest state taxes in the United States, only Nassau County New York (Long Island) and San Francisco, California pay more.  But Connecticut limited access highways, with many areas where interchanges are less than a mile apart, it simply does not work.  Gateway tolls on limited access highways near state lines generate revenue in many states, and they are feasible on Connecticut’s Rhode Island and Massachusetts borders, but not on the New York State borders in Greenwich (I-95 and the Merritt Parkway) and I-84 in Danbury, exit ramps are within feet and GPS can get the motorist around them.  Without the New York commuters, the start-up and maintenance costs make it not cost-effective to do it only on the RI and Mass borders.  Connecticut is a toll-free state for a reason.

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