Furious agreement doesn’t generally spark protest rallies, but the hundreds of residents that turned out at a series of anti-toll gatherings Saturday across the state have something in common with Gov. Ned Lamont — Connecticut’s infrastructure needs massive investments.
“Everybody agrees our infrastructure needs investment, where we differ is on the path to investing,” said state Rep. Laura Devlin (D-134th). Devlin, who represents part of Trumbull in Hartford, is the ranking member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee and has been one of the most prominent voices against proposals to place tolls on state highways. Devlin was one of a handful of legislators to attend Saturday’s rallies, organized by the group NoTollsCT. The group is planning future rallies throughout the month.
Devlin acknowledged that states Connecticut borders have tolls, but pointed out that there were tradeoffs in place that do not exist in Connecticut.
“Massachusetts doesn’t have a gross earnings toll on petroleum, New York doesn’t have sales tax on new cars,” she said.
Tolls, though, would make residents pay twice — hundreds of millions of dollars to install them, then the cost of paying the tolls themselves, Devlin said.
Currently, there are three bills in Hartford that relate to tolls. A Senate bill calls for 53 toll gantries plus the establishment of a transportation authority. A House bill would add language giving the Department of Transportation the discretionary authority to add more tolls, and Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal, which also calls for 53 gantries.
Devlin said the state has the money to improve the state infrastructure, but stressed a need to prioritize. She cited the Republican’s Prioritized Progress Plan, which calls for a combination of existing transportation funds, matching federal grants and general obligation bonds to raise the needed money.
“Bonding isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s what we do when we get a mortgage to buy a house,” she said. “Let’s take care of our priorities.”
All three toll-related bills have passed out of committee, and Devlin said keeping up public pressure was the the most effective tool against the proposals.
“The bottom line is there is no way to win this fight in Hartford,” Devlin said. “This is the time for the people to stand up and let their voices be heard.”