Sorry, Boston drivers. Your free ride through Connecticut could be ending.
Two top Connecticut lawmakers are saying new tolls are inevitable. And a legislative committee there just narrowly endorsed a bill that would bring all-electronic toll collecting to the state, although the precise locations haven’t yet been decided.
Connecticut is not alone. Officials in various states are eyeing new tolls to address infrastructure and traffic problems. This is already playing out in southern New England: Rhode Island received bids from six companies last month eager to levy tolls for big trucks, to pay for bridge repairs.
And then there’s Massachusetts. The barrier to installing new tolls was once high, with the need for booths and toll-takers. But the recent switch to all-electronic toll collection has made it much easier, although still politically challenging.
The coalition known as Transportation 4 Massachusetts says a bill from Senator Thomas McGee of Lynn that would impose more tolls within Route 128 deserves consideration as a means of curbing congestion, raising revenue, and sending more commuters to the T.
As the cochairman of the Transportation Committee, McGee would have a significant say in the debate. (As a side note, McGee announced last week that he plans to run for mayor in Lynn this year, which could complicate efforts to advocate for the bill).
Meanwhile, Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland filed legislation that would require state transportation officials to study imposing all-electronic tolls on highways other than the Massachusetts Turnpike. As a MetroWest lawmaker, Spilka hears about the inequity firsthand: Her constituents pay tolls every day, but commuters in most other parts of the state do not.
Federal officials have discouraged new tolls on federal highways but they’ve also made plenty of exceptions. With the Trump administration’s emphasis on shifting more financial responsibilities to states, Spilka said, the time is right to give adding tolls a closer look.
“I think there will be a potential tip in the balance [in favor of more tolls] when and if the federal government keeps cutting the funds to Massachusetts transportation infrastructure and our needs keep increasing,” Spilka said.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@jonchesto.