Connecticut’s Transportation Strategy Board has selected a consultant, Cambridge Systematics, to study applying congestion pricing in the state. The TSB, a division of the Office of Policy and Management which sets broad state transportation goals, has been a long-time supporter of congestion pricing and first announced it would conduct the study late last year. Gov. Rell’s ConnDOT Reform Commission also recommended that the state explore tolling when it released its report in January (see MTR‘s earlier coverage of the TSB and ConnDOT reform commission).
The study will be completed by February 15 of next year and has quite broad scope. The analysis will include the type, location, and operation of potential tolls; their impacts on traffic congestion, safety, the economy, and the environment; whether tolls would create regional equity or privacy concerns, whether congestion pricing could be applied to existing roads and bridges or only to new facilities, and whether there is a role for public/private partnerships. The consultant is also explicitly charged with studying the conversion of carpool lanes into High-Occupancy Toll lanes (which would let in carpools for free and allow single-occupant vehicles to enter by paying a toll). The underused carpool lanes on I-84 east of Hartford could be good candidates for conversion.
It will be interesting to see what the study concludes on the safety impacts of tolls. Connecticut removed its tolls in 1985 after a number of deadly collisions at toll plazas, but advancements in high-speed and cashless tolling may alleviate the safety and environmental impacts of “stop and pay” tolls.
Reacting to the news, some state legislators told the Stamford Advocate that they were supportive of tolls (or, at least, of studying tolls). Unfortunately, most said they would consider tolls only if they were offset by a lowered gas tax, another source of transportation revenue.