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Toll Booth Talk Charges Up Westporters

Westport resident Pennie More was concerned when she heard that the state legislature is considering whether to reinstate toll booths on the state's highways as a way to increase revenue. It's not the idea of paying to drive on the highway, however, that makes her wary.

"It's my understanding [the state] did away with tolls because they created too many accidents," More said. "I know a lot's changed since the '80s — now we have things like E-ZPass. But the tolls would have to be implemented in a way where they wouldn't make things worse. They are already bad on [Interstate] 95."

On Friday, the General Assembly's Transportation Committee held a public hearing on a group of proposed bills that would bring tolls back to Connecticut's highways. The most severe, Senate Bill 31, would give the transportation commissioner permission to charge tolls anywhere along any of the state's highways.

The committee is also considering a bill that would charge commercial trucks through E-ZPass stations around the state. Another bill would place booths only at Connecticut's borders. And House Bill 6200 proposes charging drivers only on new highways or extensions, solely to recoup the cost to build them.

Although More is worried that tolls would create driving hazards, she said bringing them back would definitely help generate more revenue. "Something has to be done" to address the state deficit, she said. "And how could that not generate revenue? So many people drive along 95 every day."

Like More, Westporter Jason Stern said he's OK with the idea. He is concerned, however, that people would try to ditch tolls where they can and in turn, create more traffic on town roads.

Connecticut stopped charging tolls on I-95 in 1985. Three years later, the General Assembly abolished tolls throughout the state. One reason was the federal government's prohibition on charging tolls on roads built with federal money. But U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, told The Hartford Courant on Friday that it has become easier to get waivers with the bad economy. "Given what's going on with the finances of the states, there might be an opportunity here," Larson said.

What do you think about the possibility of toll booths making a comeback in the state? Let us know below!

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