Connecticut receives more federal transportation dollars per capita than most states which have tolls on limited sections of their interstate highways, according to data collected from the Federal Highway Administration.
Of the 22 states that have tolls established on parts of their interstates, 18 receive less federal transportation funding per capita than Connecticut, including New York and Massachusetts.
The FHWA has apportioned $528.6 million for Connecticut in 2018, equalling $147.43 per person in the state. The national median dispersement per capita is $136.66.
While heavily populated states like California and New York receive more overall funding, they also have more residents traveling on their roads and bridges and more miles of interstate.
New York, which has one of the most heavily tolled interstate systems in the country, received only $89.01 per person and Connecticut’s neighbor to the north, Massachusetts, received only $93.19 per person. New York and Massachusetts received the two lowest funding rates in the country.
Connecticut removed its border tolls in 1983 and in exchange the federal government agreed to fund more transportation infrastructure costs in order to maintain interstates like I-84 and I-95.
According to a 2015 tolling study by CDM Smith, Connecticut would have to execute a new federal tolling agreement with the FHWA before installing electronic congestion tolls on the interstates.
The FHWA reportedly assured the CTDOT that it would not be in danger of losing future federal grants if congestion tolling was installed “under the right circumstances.”
What those right circumstances might be is left in question, particularly considering how much of Connecticut’s interstates would be tolled under the most recent proposals.
CDM Smith proposed installing 78 electronic tolling gantries on all 347 miles of Connecticut’s interstates, and last year the Connecticut Department of Transportation proposed 72 gantries on both the interstates and routes 8, 2, 9, and 11.
No other state in the nation comes close to having 100 percent of its interstate miles subject to tolls.
Joseph Sculley, President of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, testified before the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth that no state has ever tried to implement such extensive tolling on a previously non-tolled interstate highway.
“This is so controversial that no state has ever done it,” Sculley wrote in his testimony. “And Connecticut is looking at it for not just one highway, but for every highway in the state.”
States with tolls on their interstate highways, like Massachusetts, were essentially grandfathered in and allowed to keep their tolls, but they receive less transportation funding from the federal government.
Oddly enough, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to install tolls on Connecticut’s highways aligns with President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan.
Trump’s plan to allow states more ability to toll interstates is being opposed by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who believes the “Trump tolls” would just be an added burden on the middle class.
The president’s plan to allow states more freedom to toll interstates will also allow the federal government to pour fewer federal dollars into states for infrastructure, shifting more of the cost burden onto state governments and residents.
All this could mean more money from Connecticut commuters as they take on more responsibility for funding the state’s infrastructure costs.
Malloy also proposed raising the gasoline tax and implementing a tax on tires. Combined with projected toll revenue, the state estimates it would take in over $900 million more per year. The governor and the CTDOT commissioner James Redeker say the tolls and increased taxes are necessary to keep Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund fully operational in the future.
According to the CDM Smith report, however, at least 70 percent of the toll revenue would come from Connecticut residents.
Although, the governor has called for electronic tolls to be constructed and operational by 2023, the state may still face some headway. Connecticut has not yet attempted to negotiate a new transportation funding agreement with the FHWA.
The state would also have to conduct environmental impact studies and construction would cost an estimated $450 million.
This article has been corrected to reflect that tolls would not necessarily result in less federal transportation funding.