November 16, 2018

Study: CT tolls could generate $1B annually

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
An electronic tolling gantry.
Corridors included in Connecticut's toll evaluation.

Connecticut transportation officials unveiled a new tolling study Thursday projecting a $372 million installation project that would eventually generate over $1 billion a year in new state revenues.

The study from the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), conducted by engineering consultants CDM Smith, plots 82 gantries and electronic sensors every 6.6 miles along all interstate highways and four other major expressways and parkways. The DOT study is different from the $10 million one the State Bond Commission approved in late July.

DOT officials said building electronic tolling infrastructure would cost $210 million and a fiber communications network would cost $162 million. The tolls could produce net annual revenues of $950 million by 2023.

The study said in-state drivers with an E-ZPass would pay the lowest rates at a 20-to-30 percent discount: 5.5 cents per mile during peak hours (6 a.m. to 9 a.m./4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and 4.4 cents per mile during off-peak hours.

Those registering their license plates with the toll system but without the cashless pass would pay 9.9 cents a mile during peak hours and 7.9 cents per mile for off-peak times. Unregistered motorists would pay 11.8 cents a mile in peak times and 9.4 cents a mile during off-peak hours.

Money is collected through overhead video imaging of license plates, DOT said.

DOT said tolls charged for in-state drivers would be among the lowest in the U.S. The Northeast region's average toll rate is about 6.3 cents a mile while Connecticut's E-Pass rate would be 4.4 cents a mile during off-peak hours. There are 14 states between Maine and Florida with tolls, officials said.

Here are projected toll rates for Connecticut drivers using E-ZPass during peak hours:

  • Hartford to Southington (22 miles): $1.21

  • Hartford to New Haven (38 miles): $2.09

  • Hartford to New York (63 miles): $3.47

  • New Haven to Wallingford (12 miles): 66 cents

  • New Haven to New York (48 miles): $2.64

  • Waterbury to Danbury (27 miles): $1.49

Meantime, out-of-state drivers and truckers would pay the largest rates, accounting for 40.6 percent of the state's toll revenue.

Drivers from out of state using E-ZPass would pay 7.9 cents a mile during peak hours and 6.3 cents a mile during off-peak times.

Medium-sized trucks and buses from out of state (using E-ZPass) would pay 15.8 cents a mile during peak hours and 12.6 cents per mile during off-peak times. By comparison, Connecticut trucks and buses of the same size would pay 11 cents per mile during peak hours and 8.8 cents during off-peak hours.

The per-mile rates soar for heavy trucks, especially those without E-ZPass or pre-registered license plates.

CT cost

Operating the toll system is estimated to cost about $100 million annually by 2023 based on 2016 dollars. DOT said the overhead cost is expected to fall over time to about $82 million by 2040 because more drivers would be using E-ZPass, reducing the need for costlier video image processing transactions.

The overview of the study suggests Connecticut should develop a 10- to 20-year financial plan to fund and finance the operating budget and capital program past the current five-year special transportation fund revenues. This would include a plan to phase out a portion of Connecticut's gas tax, DOT said.

State officials said Connecticut's highways and bridges are in need of repair and current revenues are insufficient to maintain transportation infrastructure.

"Connecticut needs a new source of revenue to ensure a safe, efficient, and modern transportation system," the study says. "Tolling is one potential source."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged lawmakers during this year's legislative session to support electronic tolling as a new revenue source for Connecticut, but lawmakers did not take a vote on the issue.

Gov.-elect Ned Lamont campaigned this year on Connecticut installing the toll system, first starting with tractor-trailer trucks. Lamont has said he hasn't heard of a better way to pay for public infrastructure needs.


Read the DOT study here

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