HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Some Connecticut lawmakers are pushing hard for electronic tolls at the state’s borders.

As WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported, better car mileage has led to a reduction in the amount of money collected from the state’s gas tax, prompting lawmakers to search for a new funding source to pay for much-needed highway and bridge repairs.

Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, who co-chairs the House’s Transportation Committee and supports new tolls, said the situation is dire.

“You’re going to have some national disasters on your hands when bridges start to collapse,” he said.

As CBS2’s Diane Macedo explained, the proposal is sparking major debate.

State Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said, thousands of his constituents travel to and from work across the border into New York every day. A toll would create “an additional burden just on them that people in the middle of the state aren’t going to experience,” he said.

Guerrera said such Connecticut residents would be given reduced rates, perhaps through rebates on their state income taxes.

“Seventy-five percent of the people who use our infrastructure, especially 95, 84 are out of staters as a cut through, and you and I are paying for this and in my opinion that’s not fair,” Guerrera said.

McLachlan also said that because there are no tolls in Connecticut, the state receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transportation grants — money that would have to be repaid to the feds if tolls were reinstated.

Andrew Burke owns a catering business near a potential toll location.

“It’ll congest local roads with people who are avoiding it and it’ll, it will cost me personally a lot of money, because a majority of my business is right through the toll,” Burke said.

Others worry that tolls could discourage out-of-state drivers from visiting Connecticut businesses.

Drivers offered mixed reactions.

“We can always use the money right. The roads need repairing,” Dominic Chiapetta said.

“It’s just an additional expense to take away from your family money, that’s all,” Ken Freeman said.

Transportation expert George Haikalis said new technology no longer requires drivers to stop.

“People who don’t have EZ Pass will be getting a bill in the mail like they get with their light bill or telephone bill. They’ll have another bill to pay,” he explained.

He added that because lower gas prices mean less gas tax revenue there could be more proposals like this to come.

There are some who have proposed to put tolls around the Manhattan business district as well, but a New York DOT spokesman said there are no plans to incorporate more tolls.

The New Jersey DOT did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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