$200 MILLION Trucks-Only Tolling Plan Expected to Pass in Connecticut This Week
Hartford, CT – Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont expects his highly controversial $200 million plan to toll commercial big rigs will pass in the state’s Democratically-controlled General Assembly this week.
Gov. Lamont spoke to reporters last Friday at the Capitol amid anti-tolling demonstrations.
“I think we’re going to have an agreed-upon bill very soon — this weekend — and we’ll be getting together with the leadership very early next week and hopefully bringing it to a vote,” Gov. Lamont said.
The Governor, along with his fellow Democratic lawmakers, are calling for a special session in the coming week in order to vote on the contentious 10-year, $19.4 billion infrastructure investment plan known as CT2030.
As part of CT2030, the state would construct a “high-speed gantry system” and would charge tolls as high as $12.80 for tractor-trailers along a dozen Connecticut highway bridges.
It’s expected to generate between $150 to 200 million on the backs of truckers.
Gov. Lamont says approximately 50% of the revenue generated from the truck-only tolls will be from “out-of-state” truckers.
LATEST ON TRUCKS-ONLY TOLLING BATTLE IN RHODE ISLAND
According to the Hartford Courant, which has obtained a draft of the bill, tolls would be located at the following sites:
- I-84 over the Housatonic River on the Newtown-Southbury border, which is known locally as the Rochambeau Bridge
- The so-called Mixmaster at the intersection of Routes 84 and 8 in Waterbury
- I-84 over Berkshire Road in West Hartford
- The Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford
- I-95 over Metro-North Commuter Railroad bridge in Stamford
- I-95 over Route 33 in Westport
- I-95 over Metro-North railroad in West Haven
- I-95 over Route 161 in East Lyme
- The Gold Star Memorial Bridge between Groton and New London on I-95 over Thames River
- I-395 over the Moosup River in Plainfield
- I-684 over the Byram River in western Greenwich
- Route 8 south of I-84 in Waterbury
Trucks without a transponder would pay 50% more, while toll evaders would be subject to fines as much as $3,000, according to the report.
The Hartford Courant also reports the bill says the state Department of Motor Vehicles “shall not issue or renew the motor vehicle registration” of violators until the tolls have been paid.
“We’re Following Rhode Island’s Example”
Connecticut’s trucks-only tolling initiative is inspired by Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s (RIDOT) similar program known as RhodeWorks.
“We’re following Rhode Island’s example — the big tractor-trailer trucks — taking their law, a law that’s been in operation a couple of years,” Lamont said Friday.
Should Connecticut enact such a plan, it will likely face legal challenges much like what is happening with Rhode Island’s law.
Trucking industry representatives have been in a fierce legal battle over the plan since July of 2018, when the American Trucking Associations (ATA), along with three northeast-based carriers, filed suit against the state in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island arguing that RhodeWorks is “unconstitutional.”
In the suit, which currently remains in federal court, ATA contends RhodeWorks imposes tolls “disproportionately” on out-of-state truck drivers and operators, thus violating the Commerce Clause.
At issue continues to be whether tolls imposed on the commercial trucking industry as part of RhodeWorks are taxes or user fees.
In March of 2019, U.S. District Court judge William Smith dismissed ATA’s lawsuit.
Judge Smith held that the tolls actually constitute a “tax” under the state’s Tax Injunction Act (TIA) which bars federal courts from blocking state taxes.
ATA appealed the decision and scored a big victory last December when the appellate court unanimously determined tolls as part of RhodeWorks were not taxes, but instead were actually user fees.
The court then sent the case back to U.S. District Court where Rhode Island officials are once again seeking to have the case dismissed.
Rhode Island officials want the case to be litigated in State Court.
According to experts Transportation Nation Network (TNN) has spoken to about the case, ATA’s chances of winning in Rhode Island State Court would be significantly lower.
TNN will continue to follow both of these developing stories.
Photo courtesy of CT2030