Highway tolls, private-sector sponsorships and asset sales were some of the early ideas discussed last week as possible ways to help pay for Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed $100 billion, 30-year overhaul of Connecticut’s transportation system.
Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, offered those and other ideas for the Governor’s Transportation Finance Panel to ponder over the coming months. April 28 marked the first meeting for the nine-member group, charged with coming up with recommendations by the end of the summer.
Additional concepts offered by Barnes for discussion included restructuring existing taxes, implementing automatic traffic enforcement systems or so-called red-light cameras, and creating a road usage program that charges motorists based on miles driven. In 2013, Oregon lawmakers passed the first legislation in the U.S. to create such a system, authorizing the state Department of Transportation to set up a mileage collection system for 5,000 vehicles beginning July 1, 2015.
Given the state’s declining gas tax revenues, coupled with aging transportation infrastructure and a history of underinvestment in the system, Malloy told the group he wants a “sustainable” funding plan to finance the overhaul of highways, bridges, rail, buses and other forms of transportation in the most prudent and cost-effective way possible.
“We must get serious about presenting a plan to the legislature about what a finance package over the long haul would be like,” he said. “We realistically need a cohesive, coordinated strategy, a system that can withstand the needs of these improvements over the long term.”
Transportation panel members asked Malloy’s administration to come back with more information about how other states and countries pay for their transportation needs. Beth Osborne, senior policy adviser with Transportation for America, asked for a list of parking lots and rail stations owned by the state and whether they’re being used to their full potential.
“We need to look at where there is value in some of these assets that we can capture,” she said.
The committee can expect to receive additional information about tolls. Barnes said the state should have information in the coming weeks about potential revenue from tolls.
“There’s no question that tolls have potential to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the state of Connecticut,” Barnes said. “Exactly how many hundreds depends a lot on how you do it and how you price them.”
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