The Examiner

Harckham Threatens Tolls on State, County Roads Into Connecticut

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State Sen. Peter Harckham, surrounded by local officials, announces a plan Monday to impose tolls on Connecticut drivers on county and state roads.

State Sen. Peter Harckham is threatening a toll war with Connecticut unless its governor rescinds a proposal for a toll on trucks traveling on the brief stretch of I-684 that passes into and out of Greenwich.

Harckham said Monday he would propose legislation in the upcoming session that would put tolls on six state and county roads that cross the state line in his district. The six crossings would all be in the towns of Pound Ridge, Lewisboro and North Salem.

He also said he would support placing a toll on the Hutchinson River Parkway just before it becomes the Merritt Parkway upon entering Connecticut.

“We don’t want to get into a toll war but if the (Connecticut) governor insists on his version of the border wall, we’ll have no other choice but to respond in kind,” Harckham said.

The brewing battle was ignited earlier this fall when Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed a series of 14 new tolls on some of his state’s highways and parkways in order to pay for infrastructure improvements. One of those toll locations was on the 1.4-mile stretch of I-684, which enters and exits the extreme southwestern edge of Connecticut between Westchester County Airport and the Armonk exit.

Originally, Lamont proposed the toll for all vehicles, but after getting a frosty response from his state’s legislators, he modified the I-684 proposal to include trucks only.

Harckham, however, said that would end up being an estimated $6 million tax that would be passed onto New York businesses.

He hopes the threat of New York tolls can force Lamont and other Connecticut officials to come to the table as soon as next month to talk about larger regional transportation issues and costs.

“We don’t want it to come to this, but if so, I am willing to and prepared to submit legislation that would put tolls all along the Connecticut border so that we can pay for infrastructure repairs,” he said. “The revenue would be shared, after debt service, with these local municipalities.

There is an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 vehicle trips on those Westchester and New York State roads in Harckham’s district, many of them Connecticut drivers, said Pound Ridge Supervisor Kevin Hansan.

Hansan said the Connecticut tolls will have an even greater impact on Westchester communities than just the outlay of money.

“Tolls in lower Connecticut will have an adverse effect on New York border towns like Pound Ridge, as drivers will revert to using our local roads to avoid these tolls,” he said. “Our roads were not constructed to handle so much through traffic.”

Hansan added that Harckham’s proposed tolls would not hurt New York residents because there would be license plate readers that would charge out-of-state drivers. That is what Connecticut has proposed for I-684, he said.

Another local official, North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro, was angered by obstinate Connecticut officials. He said the Connecticut tolls would not only force trucks onto the town’s thoroughfares between the exits for the airport and Route 22 in Armonk but if many of these trucks are traveling along I-287, they could exit onto North Broadway in North White Plains. North Broadway already has major congestion, Schiliro said.

Schiliro said he agrees with Harckham’s tactic in hopes of getting Lamont to the table.

“The proposal has a lot of merit in Connecticut; it has no merit outside of Connecticut for a 1.4-mile stretch of highway,” Schiliro said. “If that’s what needs to be done, I think that’s what needs to be done.”

There is no Connecticut exit on that short strip of roadway. Harckham called it “galling” that Lamont not only would propose the toll but refuse to respond to all correspondences from New York lawmakers to discuss the issue.

New York State has also provided the maintenance, emergency responses and snowplowing on that portion of I-684 for about 50 years since Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was in office, Harckham said.




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