Legislators ask Lamont for toll forum in Naugatuck Valley

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HARTFORD — Some Republican legislators from the Naugatuck Valley are asking Gov. Ned Lamont to hold an open meeting on highway tolls in the region.

Lamont is scheduled to attend a forum on transportation funding in Westport on Sunday that two local Democratic legislators who support tolls have sponsored. The governor has no other town meetings publicly scheduled at this time.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and five other House Republicans wrote the Democratic governor on Wednesday requesting that he schedule a public meeting somewhere in the lower Naugatuck Valley. Three of the 12 proposed tolling locations on the table now are located in the region.

The six Valley Republicans referenced the Westport event in the request Wednesday to Lamont.

“This is an opportunity for the public to finally learn of the details on the proposed toll system that have been sorely missing up to this point,” Klarides said Thursday.

There was no immediate response from the governor’s office to the request, and it was unclear Thursday if the Republican legislators would get one.

Lamont and Democratic majority leaders are now concentrating on trying to cement support for the latest proposal for truck-only bridge tolls so they can schedule a special session to approve a transportation funding plan later this month.

They agreed on this approach after Lamont was unable to win support for using car and truck tolls to finance 14 bridge and highway projects. The proposal was part of the 10-year, $21.3 billion CT2030 transportation funding plan that the governor released in early November.

The tolling plan under development now would impose tolls on heavy commercial trucks only to help finance 12 bridge improvement projects.

Three of the proposed tolling projects are located in the Naugatuck Valley region, the Mixmaster interchange of I-84 and Route 8 in Waterbury, four bridges on Route 8 south of the I-84 interchange in Waterbury, and the Rochambeau Bridge over the Housatonic River on I-84 in Newtown and Southbury.

In addition to Klarides, three other Valley Republicans signed Wednesday’s letter to Lamont asking for a public meeting in the region — state representatives Rosa Rebimba of Naugatuck, David Labriola of Oxford and Nicole Klarides-Ditras of Seymour.

“Not unlike Westport, our districts are concerned about Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure and we would like to give our constituents an opportunity to learn more and ask questions with regard to how CT 2030 will affect them. We believe a Town Hall could be beneficial to better understanding your proposals,” the letter said.

State representatives Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Kathleen Kennedy, R-Milford, also signed the letter.

A Lamont spokesman on Thursday characterized the Westport event as a continuation of the ongoing public conversation on transportation funding that Lamont has been having with the people of Connecticut. The governor also fielded listener questions in-studio on two morning radio talk shows this week.

“I think the governor is going to continue to have these talks both publicly and privately with residents,” said Max Reiss, Lamont’s communication director.

He also continued to push back against Thursday criticisms and charges from toll opponents over the planning of the Westport forum, including toll supporters were secretly working to pack the audience.

In a related development Thursday, Patrick Sasser, the founder of No Toll CT, announced that the anti-toll group will boycott the Westport event with Lamont

Instead, Sasser said members of No Tolls CT will focus its efforts on the upcoming special election to elect anti-toll candidates to fill three open House seats. Two of the seats were held by Republicans who resigned and the third was held by a Democrat who died.

There are special elections scheduled next Tuesday in the 48th and 132nd assembly districts. There will be a special election in the 151st Assembly District on Jan. 21.