Connecticut truck tolling plan off the table, for now

A plan to toll trucks in Connecticut appears to be off the table after Gov. Ned Lamont told Senate Democrats on Wednesday he had lost faith in their ability to hold a vote on the controversial proposal.

“‘We’re going to vote on Thursday.’ Everybody said that to me not less than five days ago,” Lamont said, according to the CT Mirror. “Here it is, Thursday…and they said, ‘Not yet, maybe next week.’ I’ve heard that in this building for the last year, and I think you’ve all heard it for 30 years. This is a place that specializes in kicking the can down the road, and I don’t accept it.”

Under the latest version of the tolling plan, the state would collect fees from tractor-trailer trucks traveling on the state’s highways at 12 electronic gantries. The bill  limits tolls to heavy-duty trucks but also contains an emergency clause that could include smaller trucks and passenger vehicles.

State Republicans and the trucking industry lobbied against the plan, while Democrats and construction trade unions were supportive.

“We were fully opposed to it,” Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transportation Association of Connecticut, told FreightWaves. “We oppose tolling existing capacity.  We oppose tolling trucking solely.”

Under the Connecticut proposal, legislators can expand the toll to include passenger vehicles – but only if 60% of lawmakers are in favor.

According to the CT Mirror, Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) cancelled a vote on the truck tolls that had been planned for today, blaming a 30-hour filibuster threatened by Republicans.

Sculley said his association knew as late as Feb. 18 that today’s vote was not going to take place. “But then yesterday came an even bigger announcement, that the  governor is pulling back,” he said.

Senate Democratic leaders apparently insisted they still could pass transportation financing plan that included truck tolls – but need another five days to gather support for a vote.

In some respects the latest developments mirror a battle over tolling that took place three years ago, according to Sculley.  After legislators killed a tolling bill, supporters inserted the levy into the budget. “That caused people to oppose the budget,” he said. “So I would hope those games won’t be played this year.”  

The Connecticut debate over tolling comes as the American Trucking Associations is locked in a battle with the state of Rhode Island over its truck-only toll plan. The lawsuit, which is pending, claims that a truck-only toll is discriminatory and violates federal regulations.