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Lamont talks tolls; details bold plan for I-84 viaduct rebuild

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HARTFORD — Standing in the shadow of the I-84 viaduct, Gov. Ned Lamont gave his best sell job on tolls Thursday, and in doing so, expanded on the details of a viaduct rebuild.

His tolling plan is a congestion pricing model. You can think of it like a movie ticket where you pay more for a more popular or busy time. You’ll be charged more or less depending on the day of the week, time of day and even what class of vehicle you drive. “That would allow us the money long-term not just to rebuild the viaduct but to rebuild the I-95, 91 corridor, speed up transportation, get cars off the road,” said the Governor.

Built in the 1960’s, the raised portion of I-84 carries 175,000 cars a day over its crumbling stilts. It was designed for only 50,000. Joe Giulietti is the Commissioner of Transportation. He said the original raised design has drawbacks. “What that ended up doing was dividing communities and dividing opportunities for those communities as well,” he said.

The state is exploring up to a $5.3 billion plan to rebuild it, possibly underground, with a greenway alongside the highway and possible open access to the river and land for development. “This was built decades and decades ago and it’s now operating well past its sell date,” reiterated Lamont.

Selling tolls is tough. The Governor presented two options. There’s commercial trucks only...”That is an option. But it’s not an option that’s good enough to really upgrade our transportation system,” said Gov. Lamont. Budget Office Commissioner Melissa McCaw said trucks only tolling would still require another source of revenue. “You know it would be a gas tax. Increasing the gas tax,” she said.

Tolls wouldn’t be implemented until 2025 at the earliest. In the mean time, the car sales tax is being diverted to transportation. “It doesn’t fix the problem,” said Commissioner McCaw. “So let’s stop with this gimmicky type approach and let’s come up with a with a sustainable solution.”

So what would tolling all cars look like in Connecticut? 53 gantries and they would be all-electronic. No booths, so no slowing down. There would be discounts for CT residents. You won’t have to get an EZ Pass transponder, but you’ll be charged a fee if you don’t. Public safety vehicles won’t have to pay anything.

Tolling all cars is expected to bring in 800-million annually which would be lock-boxed for transportation improvements. Trucks would bring in between 45-200 million.

Republicans have their own plan called ‘Prioritize Progress,’ which doesn’t rely on tolls. The Gov. has indicated he doesn’t support it.

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