ConnDOT Studying Tolls for Hartford Area Highways

ConnDOT is studying congestion tolling on I-84, I-91, and I-384 | Image: fhwa.dot.gov

When Tri-State spoke with ConnDOT Commissioner Jim Redeker in 2011, he identified state of good repair—prioritizing the maintenance of Connecticut’s existing road, bridge, and transit infrastructure—as the primary goal for his agency. In order to help achieve this, ConnDOT is now exploring express lane tolling to help pay for essential roadway improvements and manage congestion near Hartford, a move that could lead to a healthier, less congested, and more financially sound road and bridge network in central Connecticut.

According to the Hartford Business Journal, a ConnDOT tolling study (announced in March) is examining “tolled express lanes” on I-84, I-91, and I-384. While the study’s results aren’t due until next October, high occupancy toll lanes—in which vehicles with multiple passengers ride for free, but single-occupancy vehicles pay—are reportedly in the mix.  HOT lanes are an innovative congestion mitigation tool that allows drivers to pay to bypass traffic, reducing congestion in the “free” lanes in the process. Tri-State has long called for implementation of HOT lanes on Connecticut’s existing HOV lanes.

Commissioner Redeker has said that proceeds from the tolls would go towards road maintenance, and there’s no doubt that Connecticut will soon need funds to address the deteriorating I-84 viaduct in Hartford, a stretch of road that is the busiest in the state, and a project that is being considered to be funded, in part, by tolling. The viaduct’s future has already been studied, and a wide range of replacement options are being deliberated [pdf]. Many residents are pushing for a project that would reclaim the space currently taken up by the structure, which cuts off city neighborhoods from one another and stifles potential economic development.

Fortunately for Hartford area residents, the planned opening of the CTfastrak bus rapid transit system in late 2013—whose main artery runs from Hartford to New Britain—will ease the disruption caused by future viaduct construction, no matter what type of project is chosen. Fast and congestion-free service will draw riders into the new line, and drivers that want to avoid a possible toll on the viaduct will have an additional transportation option, potentially growing ridership even further. The Hartford Courant editorial board has even called on the state to extend busway service to the east and north of the Hartford area via the existing HOV lanes as an additional means of providing more transit options for the region’s residents.

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