Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick went to Hartford last week to convey the opposition of a score of Westchester officials, including North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas, to Connecticut’s plans to collect truck tolls on Interstate 684.
Addressing a public hearing of the Connecticut General Assembly’s transportation committee, Burdick said the Westchester officeholders “take exception” to the proposed toll. He called it a threat to the well-being of many Westchester residents and said it would encourage truckers to detour onto local roads, which were never meant to handle the oversized rigs.
Connecticut lawmakers are considering a package of tolls scattered throughout the state. The proposed tolls include an overhead, truck-only reader above a 1.4-mile stretch of I-684 that runs through Greenwich, between the county airport and Armonk interchanges.
While the current legislation limits toll collections to trucks, Burdick noted later in an online message to Bedford residents, “There is no assurance that the tolls will not be extended to passenger vehicles.”
In the Hartford hearing, Burdick encouraged continued bi-state cooperation in addressing mutual problems. But he also warned of potential payback if Hartford lawmakers insisted on implementing the toll proposal.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the hearing, he reminded the lawmakers that “there are discussions in the New York State Legislature to respond in kind to the Greenwich toll proposal should Connecticut move forward with it.”
Burdick said he was speaking “on behalf of my community and elected representatives in Westchester County.” In addition to Lucas, they included supervisors Rick Morrissey of Somers, Peter Parsons of Lewisboro and Matthew Slater of Yorktown, County Executive George Latimer and state Sen. Peter Harckham of South Salem.
Making clear his opposition to the toll plan last year, Harckham said he found it “particularly galling” that Connecticut wanted to collect usage fees on a roadway that New York had built and for which it continues to cover “road repairs, fire and emergency responses, state police patrol, snow plowing, removal of deer carcasses—everything.”
Harckham said in December that he would propose legislation enacting tolls on Route 116 in North Salem, Routes 35 and 123 in Lewisboro and Routes 124 and 137 in Pound Ridge, as well as a toll on the Hutchinson River Parkway in Rye Brook “and elsewhere along the Connecticut border, as necessary.”
Town officials also weighed in on the toll plan. Lucas, who had another meeting Friday and could not attend the Hartford hearing, affirmed this week the local resistance to Connecticut’s efforts. “All of us are opposed to any of the tolls being put on I-684,” he said. “It doesn’t help the traffic situation in the local towns at all. It makes it worse.”
Burdick carried the message of opposition into the Connecticut state house on Friday, Jan. 31.
“This proposed toll would create a significant disruption to the quality of life in many municipalities,” Burdick said at the hearing. “It would prompt trucks to take to the local roads, causing congestion, damaging roads and increasing the likelihood of collisions.”
He warned that New York could take unspecified “other actions to bar the toll from being implemented.”
Instead of such a “tit-for-tat approach,” he proposed, “let’s work in partnership as our great states have done so well for many years.”
Estimates of usage-fee collections from the proposed tolls statewide run as high as $180 million a year and are seen as a way to bankroll repairs to Connecticut’s infrastructure.
Burdick backed the lawmakers’ goal if not the means of financing it. “I applaud your efforts in tackling difficult infrastructure problems confronting your state,” Burdick said. “We wrestle with the same problems in New York.”
But a vote on the package of tolls, which had been expected earlier this week, ahead of the scheduled start Wednesday (Feb. 5) of the regular legislative session, was put off, raising questions about how much support the toll proposals have.