Governor Dannel Malloy seems to be at odds with his transportation commissioner over the issue of congestion pricing. It’s a way to discourage drivers from using highways, but its place in the state’s comprehensive transportation plan is uncertain.
As part of his multi-year transportation strategy, Malloy wants widen the whole length of I-95 in the state, saying it’ll ease traffic congestion. But studies suggest widening highways can invite more traffic, sometimes even making congestion worse.
James Redeker, the transportation commissioner, told host John Dankosky on Where We Live earlier this month that the state plans to tie highway widening to congestion pricing -- having drivers pay to use the roads when they’re busy.
Below is Redeker's exchange with Dankosky:
REDEKER: We’ve actually done all of the modeling of this, that shows what adding a lane, using congestion pricing, does for automobiles.
DANKOSKY: With using congestion pricing.
REDEKER: Absolutely, absolutely.
DANKOSKY: Okay, so that's very key. I want to make sure that that's understood. If we're talking about widening the highways, we've gotta do it with congestion pricing.
REDEKER: That's what we're talking about. That's what's in the plan.
But when Malloy appeared on the show Thursday, the message was very different. Below is Malloy's exchange with Dankosky:
DANKOSKY: He’s talking about tying any plan to widen I-95 to congestion pricing on that roadway. Is that part of the Malloy plan for how we widen I-95?
DANKOSKY: It’s not.
MALLOY: No. I’m not set on any single way to finance this.
Malloy said he wants a transportation lockbox – a mechanism to safeguard funding -- in place before he identifies sources of transportation revenue, like variable tolls. And he rejected the idea that highway widening by itself might exacerbate the problem.
“I think you repeated a talking point that folks who don’t want to invest in highways frequently use,” Malloy said. “Let me very clear about what we’re talking about doing in Connecticut. We’re talking about improving our bus and rail systems first. And that’s a very different proposition than saying we now also – all’s we’re going to do is address congestion on our highways.”
The legislature failed to pass legislation creating a lockbox last year - the issue will be before them once again this session.