Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick went to Hartford last week to convey the opposition of a score of Westchester officials, including Yorktown Supervisor Matthew Slater, to Connecticut’s plans to collect truck tolls on I-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, to finance needed infrastructure repairs. The proposed tolls, $6 to $13, include a truck-only reader above a 1.4-mile stretch of I-684 running through Greenwich, between the county airport and Armonk interchanges.
Burdick called for continued bi-state cooperation in addressing the states’ 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 told lawmakers “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 Slater, they included supervisors Rick Morrissey of Somers, Warren Lucas of North Salem and Peter Parsons of Lewisboro, County Executive George Latimer and state Sen. Peter Harckham of South Salem.
Harckham made clear his opposition to the toll plan last year. The senator found it “particularly galling” that Connecticut wanted to collect usage fees on a roadway that New York built and now pays for “road repairs, fire and emergency responses, state police patrol, snow plowing, removal of deer carcasses—everything.”
Harckham said 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. In Yorktown, Slater called the proposed toll “literally highway robbery.”
“Yorktown stands in solidarity,” he said, “with our fellow Westchester communities in opposition to this ill-conceived plan that will add new costs to overburdened homeowners.”
Burdick carried the message of opposition into the Connecticut statehouse last Friday, Jan. 31.
A wireless toll reader like the one envisioned on I-684 does not require traffic to stop but instead automatically bills the trucks rolling beneath it. Still, the Westchester community leaders deem it both an imposition on their residents and a destructive intrusion on their roads.
“This proposed toll would create a significant disruption to the quality of life in many municipalities,” Burdick told 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 the infrastructure repairs.
Burdick backed the repairs if not the means of financing them. “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 of how much support the toll proposals enjoy.
Other Westchester officials joining in the protest were state Sen. Shelley Mayer, Assemblyman David Buchwald, mayors Thomas Roach of White Plains, Gina Picinich of Mount Kisco, Peter Scherer of Pleasantville and Drew Fixell of Tarrytown and supervisors Ron Belmont of Harrison, Paul Feiner of Greenburgh, Kevin Hansan of Pound Ridge, Gary J. Zuckerman of Rye Town, Anthony Colavita of Eastchester, Dana Levenberg of Ossining and Nancy Seligson of Mamaroneck.