By SHERIDAN ROY
At the March 11 town council meeting, the Republican caucus introduced a proposed resolution taking a stand against bringing highway tolls to Connecticut. Resolutions made by the town council are position statements which the council will approve by vote.
The resolution was proposed for the March 25 Town Council meeting agenda.
“The Governor and many members of the state legislature have signaled support for the placement of tolls on Connecticut’s major roadways,” states the resolution. “Many of the residents of Southington use these roadways each day for work, family obligations and pleasure and spend a significant amount of time on these roads.”
The resolution states residents of Southington pay more in taxes and fees than most residents in other towns and cities around the country as there is a gas tax in the state of Connecticut.
“Tolls would be a financial burden to the residents of Southington,” states the resolution.
Town council chair Chris Palmieri (D) said out of respect for his colleagues, he will add the resolution to the agenda and looks forward to the conversation.
“I am not fully decided myself yet on the issue,” said Palmieri, “but one of my concerns that I raised to state delegation is, if they do in fact put tolls on our roads—which studies have shown it adds an increase of traffic flow to local town roads—are part of the proceeds for tolls going to filter back to municipalities so that we can then designate money for roads upkeep?”
Palmieri had asked this at the legislative breakfast that was held in February. Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-31) said it was a valid question, but the answer was unknown at the time.
“The conversation about tolls is also about fairness,” said Aresimowicz at the breakfast. “I pay to improve other states’ bridges and roads when I travel. They come to Connecticut and they don’t pay. They don’t buy gas to due to the gas tax. They don’t stop other than maybe at a rest stop. We shouldn’t give out-of-state drivers a free ride while they’re beating up our roads.”
Aresimowicz added that reductions for Connecticut residents and frequent highway drivers are being discussed. However, Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives feel tolls would be a burden to residents either way.
Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-80) said tolls are “just another tax” and will push traffic onto side roads which will effect communities. Sen. Rob Sampson (R-16) agreed, stating tolls are “just another way to take money out of your pockets.”
“There will be so much more impact on us than the out-of-state drivers,” he said. “Additionally, there will be more state employees, buildings, and toll gantries to fund. The cost to collect tolls will outweigh the income from tolls.”
Rep. John Fusco (R-81) said over time people have “found Southington.”
“Southington is at the center of the state,” he said. “We are a half an hour from anywhere in Connecticut, and over time work commutes have lengthened.”
He added that the more money residents spend on taxes, the less they will spend in their communities.
Palmieri noted the discussion is important to have in Southington due to its proximity to I-84, I-91, and routes 71, nine and eight.
The Connecticut Council of Municipalities (CCM), a state-wide association of towns and cities, is in support of implementing tolls on highways and bridges “to improve and expand Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure,” CCM stated in a press release.
“While the implementation of tolling is not popular, and no one wants to impose additional fees on Connecticut residents, difficult times often demand difficult decisions,” said CCM in a press release. “Additionally, while tolling may be a difficult option, it will provide the needed revenue to ensure our state has a means to maintain and expand a safe and efficient transportation network.”
Current tolling studies have indicated that the proposed 50 gantries on I-84, I-91, I-95 and Rt. 15 will generate revenues that may exceed $800 million annually—$320 million of which will be paid by out-of-state drivers, according to CCM.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.