Hol­i­day traf­fic would gen­er­ate mil­lions in tolls

Stamford Advocate - - Front Page - By Em­i­lie Mun­son

Seek­ing beaches, bar­be­cues, friends and fam­ily, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will cruise the na­tion’s high­ways this Me­mo­rial Day week­end and in ev­ery state on the East Coast, they will pay tolls — ex­cept in Con­necti­cut, that is.

How much would the Nut­meg State col­lect if we had gantries erected? It’s im­pos­si­ble to pin down an ex­act num­ber, but it could be more than $1 mil­lion

...(O)ffi­cials pre­dict tolls will bring in $800 mil­lion a year in gross rev­enue for the state, or about $2.2 mil­lion per day.

ex­tra each day of the three-day week­end, based on a pre­dic­tion of record numbers of driv­ers hit­ting the roads.

There’s no chance we’ll see tolls for at least four

years as law­mak­ers re­main sharply di­vided. This week, the state’s largest la­bor union coali­tion, the Con­necti­cut AFL-CIO, en­dorsed elec­tronic tolls, say­ing they are vi­tal to re­pair the state’s trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture and keep the economy grow­ing.

That was no sur­prise, as union­ists have ac­com­pa­nied Gov. Ned La­mont on his stops to push for tolls. Some­what sur­pris­ing was the state’s largest busi­ness group, the Con­necti­cut Busi­ness and In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, which an­nounced Mon­day its op­po­si­tion to tolls, even though many of its mem­bers — es­pe­cially down­state — fa­vor the idea.

As for the hol­i­day re­ceipts, Mas­sachusetts and the New York City area tolling au­thor­i­ties both said Fri­day they don’t have pro­jec­tions.

But here’s what we know: The record AAA fore­cast for driv­ers, pre­dicts 43 mil­lion Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing more than 50 miles by car, the sec­ond high­est travel vol­ume since 2000.

In New Eng­land, that’s 1.75 mil­lion people, or more than 90 per­cent of hol­i­day week­end trav­el­ers. If they are driv­ing through Maine, Mas­sachusetts, Rhode Is­land or New Hamp­shire, that means a high like­li­hood of tolls.

Based on pop­u­la­tion to­tals, roughly 450,000 of those people are likely to live in Con­necti­cut.

Driv­ers will pay be­tween 3.1 cents and 5.7 cents per mile dur­ing peak times and 3.5 cents per mile off peak, un­der Con­necti­cut’s lat­est tolling pro­posal re­leased by La­mont Tues­day. In­ter­states 95, 91 and 84 will be tolled along with the Mer­ritt and Wil­bur Cross park­ways.

So, some rough, back-ofthe-en­ve­lope math shows Con­necti­cut might see $1 mil­lion or more in rev­enue just from Con­necti­cut driv­ers head­ing to their week­end plans, as­sum­ing some driv­ers will travel Fri­day af­ter­noon and some will drive off peak, and not every­one will get the max­i­mum dis­count.

That fig­ure does not in­clude rev­enue from the vast flow of out-of-state driv­ers, who are ex­pected to gen­er­ate 40 per­cent of Con­necti­cut’s toll rev­enue on nor­mal days — maybe more on hol­i­day week­ends. AAA finds New York City is the sec­ond most pop­u­lar Me­mo­rial Day week­end des­ti­na­tion in 2019, which could put many New Eng­lan­ders on Con­necti­cut roads.

Over­all, Con­necti­cut of­fi­cials pre­dict tolls will bring in $800 mil­lion a year in gross rev­enue for the state, or about $2.2 mil­lion per day.

Nat­u­rally, all week­ends bring less traf­fic than work­days, so that doesn’t mean $3 mil­lion on each of the hol­i­day week­end days. But we know there’s a big bump over a nor­mal week­end — likely $1 mil­lion in would-be tolls when we in­clude in-state and out-of­s­tate driv­ers.

All of which can spur that much more de­bate, with sup­port­ers cel­e­brat­ing the mil­lions to be made off out-of-state driv­ers now get­ting a “free ride” and op­po­nents be­moan­ing how much Con­necti­cut res­i­dents would have to pay just for a quick week­end get­away.

The leg­is­la­ture and La­mont — who has made toll im­ple­men­ta­tion his mis­sion — have agreed to de­bate the ques­tion in a spe­cial ses­sion this sum­mer.

Per­haps by the time we see pre­dic­tions for In­de­pen­dence Day traf­fic, we’ll know whether the state can cash in in those ve­hi­cles by 2023, or per­haps 2024.

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In­ter­state 95 traf­fic in New Haven on June 28, 2010.

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