Tolls are a necessary step

To the editor:

A few years ago, I realized that I knew very little about politics and virtually nothing about state issues. I decided to get a group of women together so we could ask questions, educate each other and bring in speakers to help us figure out truth from fiction and where to put our energy.

This group has led me to writing this letter. I moved from N.J. to Connecticut over 15 years ago and have truly fallen in love with this state. This is my home and I hope my children will go out and explore the world and eventually return home. I care now more than ever about the well-being of our state and that has led me to researching, questioning and pushing our state to readmit tolls to our roads.

What I have learned over the past few months from this amazing group of women is that the concept of bonding is irresponsible and tolls are a worthy solution. Bonding will just add to the debt of Connecticut taxpayers and that will leave my children paying for our poor choices.

I would rather ask out-of-state drivers to help share the cost of fixing our roads than leave it all to Connecticut residents. I am paying for every state’s infrastructure when I drive to N.J., N.Y. and when I drive to Maine in the summer. Our roads are in terrible shape and our bridges are structurally deficient.

I fear for my children’s safety every time they drive to and from New Haven. This issue needs to be addressed now and we need to approach the solution in a nonpartisan way.

The money from tolls will go into a lockbox for transportation only. Revenues from tolls will allow for a lower gas tax, which benefits all of us. The research is out there and I would argue it is time for our leaders to inform their constituents why tolls are a necessary step in helping solve Connecticut’s financial issues. It’s time to take bolds steps to work together to improve our state.

Melissa Shein

Westport

Open letter from the Westport DTC in support of tolls

To the editor:

At our May 13 meeting, the Westport Democratic Town Committee voted overwhelmingly in support of Gov. Ned Lamont’s toll legislation and the position of our legislators, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and state Sen. Will Haskell, for the following common sense reasons:

  There is no dispute about the state of our infrastructure in Connecticut. Our old roads and bridges pose serious safety issues. Moreover, the state of our infrastructure deters businesses and families from moving here. We need to attract young families and businesses to grow our economy. Connecticut is the only state on the Eastern seaboard without tolls to fix these problems.

  Forty percent of the revenue will be collected from people who are not Connecticut residents. Connecticut residents should not have to pay 100 percent of the costs when out-of-state drivers represent 40 percent of the traffic. After all, we pay their tolls when we drive on their roads. The revenue raised will be protected by the constitutional lockbox.

  Bonding is not a sustainable source of revenue. The alternative “Prioritize Debt” plan using 30-year bonds would saddle us, our children, and our children’s children with repaying 100 percent of that cost plus interest. This is irresponsible and expensive.

  Peak rates will be frozen for three years and set at 4.4 cents per mile, plus/minus 30 percent (roughly 1.3 cents) to allow CT DOT the flexibility to ensure ultimate approval by federal DOT.

  Smart tolls need not be burdensome to Connecticut residents. We have the technology to provide discounts for Connecticut EZ Pass users, commuters and other frequents users, and low income residents. We can also place tolls in a manner that will discourage drivers from exiting the highway onto local roads to avoid tolls.

  To help working families, the bill allows for a monthly credit loaded onto an EZ Pass, as well as ways to load cash onto passes at local convenience stores.

  The bill creates a Connecticut Transportation Commission — a bipartisan group of legislators, commissioners and the treasurer, to review and approve DOT’s plan.

  Use of short-term borrowing to invest $100 million in rail and transit across the state will help provide: new rail cars; expanded service on Metro-North branch lines and Shoreline East; a new Mixmaster; simplification of the Route 15/Route 7 interchange; and easing of congestion at the I-91/I-691/Route 15 interchange and on I-95.

  Additional benefits include $1 bus service, opening the highway welcome centers and tying revenues to an eventual decrease in the gas tax as revenues from tolls are achieved.

We believe that legislators must pass this bill and then work out details that everyone can live with in order to help Connecticut move forward without adding more long-term, economy strangling debt. We hope you will take a close look at the plan and consider supporting it as well.

Ellen Lautenberg

Chair, Westport DTC

Abortion rights protest in Westport

To the editor:

I got the most sickening and horrible feeling after reading the article on the protest in Westport May 17 on abortion rights.

How anyone can believe that the baby growing within them with its beating heart is not a human being and be protected, not destroyed, is beyond comprehension. Life born and unborn comes from God and is beautiful and sacred.

Marian McDermott

Westport