Saturday, January 17, 2009


When the Mass. Turnpike Authority board voted 4-1 on Nov. 14, 2008 to raise tolls by $100 million, former Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen said the agency had run out of options and board members built expected toll revenues into the authority budget and said they expected to give the hikes a final stamp of approval on Jan. 22. Two months later, with fierce opposition still swirling, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is now preparing to hold "a discussion" on big toll increases at its meeting next Thursday. A final vote is not listed on the agenda. A spokesman said that whether a vote occurs is up to board members, who are grappling with intense opposition to the toll increases from proponents of a gas tax, who say it is a more equitable way to raise transportation dollars. The Senate has called on the turnpike authority to forgo its toll increase and wait until significant reforms are implemented first. Top state officials have outlined reform ideas, but no legislation has been filed. Gov. Deval Patrick, who has since replaced Cohen with James Aloisi, has suggested the toll hike revenue is desperately needed to pay turnpike obligations, but Patrick has also softened his once ironclad opposition to a gas tax hike. The plan under consideration would boost tolls in Allston from $1.25 to $2, with tolls in Weston also rising by 75 cents. Tolls at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels would rise to $7 from $3.50, under the turnpike's plan.

(Thursday, 2 pm, Rooms 5 and 6, Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza Boston)

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