Republicans claim Malloy tolls study would be waste of money

HARTFORD — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday ordered a $10 million study of electronic tolling on key Connecticut highways, prompting harsh criticism from Republicans.

Malloy, who is not seeking re-election, signed an executive order that directs state agencies to assess possible tolling on Interstates 95, 91, 84, the Wilbur Cross Parkway, the Merritt Parkway and any other limited access highways, as determined by the Department of Transportation commissioner. The review would look at everything from how much to charge to ways to provide Connecticut residents a discount to ensure out-of-state drivers "contribute their fair share" to paying for transportation improvement projects.

"As Connecticut's General Assembly and next governor consider how to address the future of our state's transportation funding, this study and plan will prove to be invaluable in their endeavor to make an informed decision," Malloy said in a statement. The concept is similar to legislation state lawmakers were considering in the final days of this year's session but were unable to pass.

Malloy has said there will not be enough money in the state's Special Transportation Fund five years from now to cover the cost of major transportation infrastructure projects.

Republicans, including several of the five candidates who hope to fill Malloy's job in January, bashed the idea of a $10 million study. Madison businessman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski tweeted how tolls are "just another tax on the hard-working people of Connecticut."

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said Malloy doesn't know the next administration's plans to shore up the state's Special Transportation Fund and might not support his vision for tolls.

"This is an irresponsible and egotistical waste of money as he heads out of office," he said. "Governor Malloy needs to get on his horse, ride into the sunset and leave taxpayers alone."

Malloy's study comes a week after a national trucking industry group filed a federal lawsuit against neighboring Rhode Island over electronic truck tolls that began on June 11 as part of a $5 billion infrastructure plan to repair bridges and roads. The Virginia-based American Trucking Associations claims large commercial trucks are being unfairly targeted.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has said trucks were targeted because they cause the most damage.

A spokesman for Malloy said the governor's executive order is more about making sure the General Assembly has the information it needs.

Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, has proposed electronic tolling for heavy out-of-state trucks. He said a study isn't needed "to know that our transportation system is a mess." Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim welcomed the study, but said it should have been done years ago.

The State Bond Commission, chaired by Malloy, will vote July 25 on the $10 million for the study.