Massachusetts, Ask Not For Whom The Toll, Er, Tolls…

toll_booth_fast_lane

…It tolls for thee! Even if you never take the Pike or cross the Tobin.  You’re not safe on I-93 or 128.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Gov. Patrick’s transportation guy:

 Open-road tolling is an inexpensive prospect for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to put in place, but the ease with which it can be implemented could spell more tolls for drivers outside the Interstate 90 corridor, according to Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.

“While it might not happen in my time,” Davey told lawmakers Wednesday, the launch of open-road tolling — which requires no tollbooths or toll collectors — in Massachusetts will “set the table” for potential tolling on new roads.

“All electronic tolling we really think holds out a promise. And we mentioned this in our plan, potentially for future tolling in and around the state. It is certainly an equity issue in this Commonwealth when it comes to folks paying,” Davey said, referring to the tolls along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Did you get that, all you South or North Shore residents? Out in the Rte 2 or Rte 3 suburbs? It’s an “equity” issue, as in “it’s not fair that you’re not paying, too.”

I feel like the boy who’s crying wolf even as the wolfpack is ripping apart the flock. The folks who aren’t paying tolls oppose getting rid of tolls and shifting the costs of the Big Dig debt to the gas tax. You’re not paying tolls and you don’t want to.

But can’t you see that, as long as Massachusetts has the power and ability to do both–it will? You may have been protected from tolls in the past, but not anymore:

Addressing members of the House and Senate Ways and Means committees at a budget hearing, Davey said, “Although we need the federal government’s approval if we wish to toll other interstates in the future — 93, 95, 84, 91 — one of the hurdles that has been said in the past is you have the cost of construction.”

That is not an issue with open-road tolling, which uses EZ-pass technology, or cameras and a billing system, rather than toll booths. “Open road tolling is not expensive,” Davey said.

As I’ve written before, open tolling is so cheap that if Beacon Hill gets its way, you’ll be driving beneath a canopy of toll-collecting technology from your driveway to the parking garage at work.

There’s only one way for us to protect ourselves, and that’s with a ban on all tolls.  We can’t get rid of the gas tax, so it’s either a constitutional amendment banning the state from collecting tolls…or we can all end up paying higher gas taxes AND higher tolls.

Don’t believe me? That’s exactly what Gov. Patrick is proposing right now.

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Michael Graham
Radio talk show host, columnist for the Boston Herald, stand-up comic and former GOP political consultant. Learn more about Michael here.

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