James J. Barrett Remember back roads to ‘current sad state’
I have been following the debate over tolls with keen interest and it seems that this discussion is happening in a vacuum with no prior history of how we got to our current sad state of decrepit bridges, torn up roads and a public transportation system that has consistent breakdowns.
By the way, Metro-North has informed commuters that trains this summer will be arriving earlier than scheduled but will be getting to Grand Central later than scheduled in a kind of reverse time travel.
Any conversation about tolls has to take into account the Connecticut gas tax which is currently rated anywhere from the fifth highest or eighth highest in the country. Believe it or not, our ranking has actually improved.
The tax was initially raised by former governor and current Florida resident, Jodi Rell, who wanted to be the “Transportation Governor.” Sound familiar? The tax revenue was to go into a “lockbox” which no one could touch and the funds would only be used to improve our transportation infrastructure.
The final gas tax increase was in 2013 but somehow over the years, according to Connecticut NPR, more than $1.2 billion earmarked for transportation in the “lockbox” had gone missing. What happened to said money, you ask? Turns out the Connecticut legislature had, in the words of NPR, “stolen it.”
While the current toll plan has yet to be completely fleshed out, one estimate of the cost for a commuter who travels from Trumbull to Stamford for work would be almost $800 a year in tolls.
That may be chump change to our incredibly wealthy governor but, to the Connecticut resident whose median income is $73,433, that is real money.
In a state that had the lowest GDP growth in the country from 2007 to 2017, in a state that currently has only 81 percent of the jobs from our employment peak in 2007 (Wall Street Journal, April 3), in a state that continues to lose population, do we want to continue to make it harder and more expensive for our residents to live here? As a teacher once told me, always beware when you hear the phrase which is now all the rage in Hartford, “This time is different.” Remember that when you are paying tolls.
James J. Barrett is an Old Greenwich resident.