If Connecticut installs highway tolls, then it will not risk losing any of its federal funds meant for infrastructure upgrades, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday.
The federal government has typically provided to states reimbursement for investments in transportation or infrastructure related projects. If the state-funded a project at 20 percent of the overall price, the federal government would provide the remaining 80 percent.
When asked whether Connecticut could install tolls without risk of losing any of that money, Lamont said the answer is yes.
“It sounds like something we can do and we can do it on a fairly timely basis,” he said.
Lamont met recently with Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation, who he said provided that reassurance that Connecticut could collect revenue, and not jeopardize the ability to rely on the federal government to help the state complete projects like rail improvements, highway widening, and bridge replacement.
Connecticut, according to the Department of Transportation in Washington, currently holds one of the spots available through the agency’s Value Pricing Pilot Program. That program would allow Connecticut to install tolls on existing roadways, so long as the prices are based on congestion levels and time of day.
Republicans in the General Assembly are unified against tolls, but they also do not want to see the state lose any federal cash for tolls.
Sen. Len Fasano, (R – North Haven), the Senate minority leader, said he’s under the impression that congestion pricing is the only way Connecticut could collect revenue without building a new structure like an extra lane or a bridge.
“As long as it’s congestion pricing tolls, it’s fine,” he said. “We’ll get the federal money. It’s you can’t put up tolls unless you have this value pricing high end use and lower tolls at low-end use.”
Fasano said any toll program cannot be flat rate. He added, “I think if we put in tolls as a one rate, unless they get a waiver from the federal government in writing that says it’s not going to hurt our federal money.”
Lamont has changed his position on tolls from the campaign. He had run on the issue, arguing to toll only trucks, not passenger cars. He later changed his tune, calling for tolls on all cars as the best way to raise revenue and improve transportation infrastructure.
Lamont says his conversations with Chao have been productive.
“They’re pretty entrepreneurial down there at transportation. They like public-private partnerships. They said there’s going to be a new infrastructure bill soon which could be as much as two trillion dollars, and she said, ‘Connecticut, make sure you have the revenues in place so you can make your 80-20 match,’ so the state could put up its share of the dough.”