Saturday, 2:15 PM
Menino: Toll hike would gridlock Boston neighborhoods
By Noah Bierman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
A planned toll hike by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority would clog the streets of Boston with an estimated 200,000 more vehicles, delaying the response of police and firefighters, hurting city businesses, and causing a raft of environmental and other problems.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino
That is according to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who testified at a legislative hearing today in support of a bill that would freeze the Turnpike Authority's power to increase tolls.
"Doubling the tolls in and around Boston is the wrong answer," Menino said, according to copy of his prepared remarks provided by his staff. "Itís not fair and it's bad policy. Boston residents, businesses, and commuters should not be forced to shoulder the burden for the entire state."
Menino also took aim at the governor's plan to dismantle the Turnpike Authority, urging state officials to come up with a "comprehensive reform plan" that must be fully vetted before any toll hike. As an alternative, Menino reiterated his support for increasing in the state's gas tax, saying it was the "fairest solution" because the roads, bridges, and tunnels benefit all residents of Massachusetts.
The hearing before the Joint Committee on Transportation discussed a proposal by Representative Steven Walsh. The Lynn Democrat wants to freeze the proposed toll hike which would increase the cost of driving through the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll booths to $2 for cash customers, up from $1.25. Tolls at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels would double, from $3.50 to $7 for cash customers and from $5.25 to $9 for taxicab drivers, who must pay a commercial fee.
Turnpike Authority officials have said that the increase could yield an additional $90 million to $100 million a year, providing a much needed jolt to the authority's finances. The agency is $2.2 billion in debt, mainly related to the costs of the Big Dig, and is on the verge of having its credit rating dropped again, which could put it in junk bond status.
Today was the third of four scheduled oversight hearings on the gas tax and proposed toll hike, which was given tentative approval by the Turnpike Authority board in November. A public hearing on the proposed toll hike is also scheduled this evening at the Framingham Memorial Building.