The State House voted early Thursday morning to authorize the state’s transportation department to allow temporary tolls on Route 11 in southeastern Connecticut.
The bill, which the House passed 76-60, marks the first authorization of tolls in two decades.
East Lyme Rep. Ed Jutila, a Democrat, said the measure is tailored to the completion of Route 11, which ends abruptly in Salem. He said the legislation is needed to generate revenue to help complete the long-delayed highway. The bill was amended to ensure the tolls would be removed after bonds for the project are paid off.
“This project is long overdue and absolutely essential for the safety and general quality of life in southeastern Connecticut,” Jutila said. “Route 11 was never intended to dead end in little, rural Salem.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is pushing ahead with design and engineering plans to complete the remaining 8.5-mile stretch and an intersection with Interstate 95 in Waterford.
The Democratic governor recently announced that his administration is resurrecting the plans that were put on hold by former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration because of cost concerns. He’s also calling for a cost analysis of the project.
The work could take as long as two-and-a-half years.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, questioned why lawmakers were considering authorizing tolls after two decades when Route 11 hasn’t been fully approved and there’s no final price-tag.
“What the heck are we passing this bill for,” Cafero asked.
Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, opposes tolls. He said he worries this measure will ultimately persuade other legislative delegations to pursue tolls to finish roads in their districts.
Construction of Route 11 began in the 1970s but was halted because of environmental concerns and a lack of funding. The highway was supposed to create a direct route from southeastern Connecticut to Hartford, linking with Route 2. The road now stops in Salem, detouring drivers to Route 85, a two-lane state road.
The bill now moves to the Senate for further legislative action.