BOSTON (WWLP) — The state Senate passed a transportation financing bill that reinstates the Western Turnpike tolls from Exit 1 in West Stockbridge to Exit 6, at Interstate 291 east of Springfield. Governor William Weld eliminated the Western Turnpike tolls, exits one through six, more than 15 years ago. Many state lawmakers say it was a political move, and that now the tolls need to be restored to fund local roads.
“If tolls were reinstated my support of reinstating those tolls would mean that that money would have to stay in Western Massachusetts to go toward western Massachusetts infrastructure issues,” said Sen. James Welch (D-West Springfield).
Amherst state Senator Stanley Rosenberg proposed bringing back the tolls. His amendment makes sure the toll money stays in Western Massachusetts. He also says it aims to collect tolls from out-of-state drivers.
“The instate Massachusetts motorists who pay the tolls on the turnpike can get a tax credit on their state income tax. The out of state drivers don’t, so they’re going to be subsidizing out road construction,” said Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst).
But House lawmakers did not include a provision that restores the tolls in their version of the transportation bill. They’re negotiating a final bill with State senators.
“It’s not clear yet whether it’s going to pass or survive the conference committee on the budget. I’m one who believes there should be tolling here in east Mass,” said Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield). “If we’re going to reinstate some tolls there ought to be fairness and equity about how we do it.”
Senator Rosenberg estimates the tolls could raise $12 million dollars annually for Western Massachusetts road projects like the renovation of the elevated section of I-91 through Springfield.
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