To toll or not to toll is a question still without an answer in Connecticut. The state’s Transportation Strategy Board has postponed making a recommendation to the General Assembly on reviving highway tolls, requesting more time to study the issue.

Earlier this year, the board received the results of a year-long study that assessed nine options for instituting electronic tolling in Connecticut. The report, prepared by Cambridge Systematics LLC, emphasized that the tolling method ought to be determined by the reason for tolling.

For example, if the primary purpose is to raise revenue, then options such as border tolls, broad interstate tolling, or some form of a vehicle-miles-travelled toll would have the advantage. On the other hand, if reducing highway congestion is the main purpose, then tolling high occupancy vehicle lanes, tolling I-95 in southwestern Connecticut, or building new toll lanes along existing interstates might have the edge.

The report offered no single electronic tolling option that would address Connecticut’s funding and congestion issues without raising any significant challenges.

Important considerations include the effect tolls would have on residents who live near the state line and commute across borders every day; the capital and operating costs of erecting electronic toll gates throughout the state; and the impact on local roads if congestion mitigation tolls divert traffic off highways.

This month, the Strategy Board held a series of public forums on highway tolls to gauge how residents would respond. Many saw tolls as simply a new tax that we can’t afford; others believed that tolling is a viable solution to some of the state’s transportation congestion and funding issues. Still others were undecided but attended the forums in hopes of understanding the options and comparing the potential benefits and pitfalls of each.

This fall, Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the six-year federal transportation funding bill that could have significant new incentives for mass transit development and possibly more flexibility for states regarding the use of tolling revenues. Such measures could shape the future of electronic tolling in Connecticut. In the meantime, policymakers should carefully weigh options for electronic tolling and compare these to alternatives for addressing highway congestion and transportation funding challenges.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860-244-1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.