Mary Connolly Flynn Introduce tolls responsibly
I’m writing in response to the proposal to reintroduce tolls on Connecticut highways, a prospect that has drawn protest, as referenced in Saturday’s news article, “Toll protests to be held in communities across Connecticut.”
Of course no one wants tolls, because who wants to pay them?
I believe we need them. It’s our responsibility to see that our infrastructure is kept intact. There are more than 300 bridges in the State of Connecticut that are in need of repair or replacement. Many are classified as structurally deficient. It’s irresponsible not to fix them. We need money to fix them, and to maintain our roads. Tolls are the best option.
Tolls are a usage fee, not a tax. They’re paid by those who use the roads. That’s really the choice: tax or toll. We still have to pay for bonds, either through taxes or toll revenue.
Greenwich is the home of the Mianus River bridge. People died when it collapsed. That collapse brought the problem of our crumbling infrastructure into the national spotlight. We need to keep our roads and bridges in good repair. The consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.
I support raising revenue for the repair and maintenance of our infrastructure through tolling.
But let’s not solve the problem by enacting tolls through legislation with the missteps contained in the three bills currently being considered.
First — the tolls collected should be dedicated to road and bridge maintenance, repair and when necessary, upgrades. If we want to divert a small amount, perhaps 5-10 percent to greener forms of transport — the rails and buses, that sounds reasonable. Implementing tolls may increase public transportation ridership. But divert no more than that. Rail and bus fees should basically support themselves.
Second — we do not need to create a public authority to oversee our transportation. I know an authority can more easily borrow money, and do not have to adhere to our state debt limits, making it easier to fund projects. If we need to raise the debt limits we should do it intentionally, not as part of some “backdoor” borrowing. The PEW Organization is among those that say the problem with authorities is lack of oversight and such borrowing. Just look to New York to see how the bus, subway and commuter rail services are not well served by an authority form of governance.
Third — I completely agree with Mr. Hugh Bailey’s opinion printed last week (“On tolls, be wary of free money”) on the public/private bank. I think this route is way too rife for abuse. Keep everything more transparent. We do not need this. Perhaps those who would be willing to lend “trillions” will still lend to us without using this public/private bank.
Lastly, I hope that idea of being able to buy into the HOV lane never resurfaces. In addition to completely defeating the purpose of an HOV lane, are there not enough inequities apparent in daily life without watching someone zoom by in the HOV lane, able to buy their way out of a traffic jam? Beyond being a regressive idea as a matter of environmental policy, it’s an insult the vast majority of motorists, the same ones we’re asking, rightly, to pay tolls.
So please join me in support of tolls, and let’s do it in a responsible fashion.
Mary Connolly Flynn is an Old Greenwich resident.