Saturday, 2:15 PM
Momentum increases for substantial toll hike
(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file)
By Noah Bierman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
STURBRIDGE -- The likelihood of a substantial toll hike on the Massachusetts Turnpike gained significant momentum today as officials discussed drastic measures needed to dig the roadway out of a deep financial hole.
One proposal floated by Turnpike Authority board members today at their monthly meeting would increase the charge for passenger cars on the eastern portion of the roadway by $1, increasing the cost at toll booths at Allston-Brighton and Weston from $1.25 to $2.25. Another alternative would raise the fare for tunnels by $5, from $3.50 to $8.50. The four-member board also seemed to agree that tolls will have to be reinstated for passenger cars on the western turnpike for Exits 1 through 6.
The board did not make a final decision, and members stressed that the ultimate increase could be a blend of several proposals that may increase the cost of both the roadway and the tunnels. However, it became increasingly clear from the discussion that some type of toll increase was inevitable.
"There's no tooth fairy," said board member Michael P. Angelini. "We're going to have to get some revenue from the road."
Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge said he was holding out hope that the Legislature may still be able to offer some aid to the cash-strapped agency. Regardless of whether relief comes from Beacon Hill or as a toll increase, LeBovidge cautioned against a piecemeal solution. The Turnpike Authority needs enough new revenue to maintain the roadway and Big Dig for the next five years.
"The last thing I'd want to be associated with is another Longfellow Bridge," LeBovidge said, referring to the 102-year-old span over the Charles River that had to be partially closed this summer when it fell into disrepair.
The board remained split on a timetable for a potential toll increase. Two board members -- Mary Z. Connaughton and Judy Pagliuca -- lobbied for a speedy decision. However, Angelini and Bernard Cohen, the chairman and transportation secretary, said they wanted more time to fully consider all the proposals.
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