Toll Protesters Protest Lamont's Inaugural Parade

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HARTFORD – More than a dozen gatherers gathered in front of the William A. O'Neill Armory on Wednesday morning, in the bitter wind for hours before Governor Ned Lamont took office at the other. end of the stone walls.

Rally fans came from across the state, but they had one thing in common: they were all opposed to adding tolls on the Connecticut highways.

They were at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Hungerford Street, just outside the Legislative Building Office building, dressed in red vests bearing the blanket. "NO TOLLS" inscription on the back. They carried placards with the same message and skirted a drawn drum making a noise in turn.

Several members stood at the edge of Capitol Avenue, waving placards that told drivers to honk when they opposed a toll, and a number of trucks and cars that were passing by. were doing.

The group that organized the small gathering is known as NoTollsCT. Several members arrived in Hartford at 8:30 am, four hours before the Lamont swearing in at 12:30.

One member, Cathy Hopperstad, said the rally could have garnered more support in person if it had not happened on a weekday.

"We had a lot of support online, but a lot of people are working," Hopperstad said. "Just assume behind us that there are 100,000 more."

Hopperstad, a public school teacher who lives in Manchester, said she had taken a day off without pay to attend the rally.

During his campaign, Lamont said that all tolls installed on state highways would only apply to semi-trailers. However, one of the Lamont transition committees recommended in December that the proposal be extended to passenger cars.

If it was instituted, the tolls would be collected via electronic gantries, which automatically charge drivers for the passage. A state study estimated that a toll for all vehicles, with around 82 gantries, would generate annual revenues of $ 1 billion.

Stamford's Patrick Sasser said Wednesday's rally had two main goals: to increase awareness of tolls and to attract the attention of lawmakers, including Lamont.

Sasser said he would like to see the state abandon the proposal and use its transportation fund only for transportation projects.

In November, Connecticut residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of a "locked box" for the Special Fund for Transportation, funded in part by fuel taxes. In this post office box, the money for the Special Fund for Transport must be used for transportation purposes only.

If Sasser had a chance to talk to Lamont, "I'll tell him," Stand firm, "said Sasser," Second, I'd ask him to let the safe do his job. roll up the sleeves, look at the books and find other ways to reduce costs in this state. "

Throughout the day, the anti-toll gathering shared the sidewalk with other groups.

The 350 CT members wore banners urging lawmakers to work on climate change measures and pay attention to the environment.

The Interfaith Fraternity for Universal Health Care has been meeting at the corner of the State Armory and the Legislative Office building for several minutes of prayer.

The fraternity brings together leaders of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, among others, all striving to draw attention to the need for the state to expand its health care.

Pastor Rodney Wade, of Long Hill Bible Church in Waterbury, said he often saw members of his congregation grappling with complex health system issues.

"They would just be stressed by the whole situation," said Wade. "It affects not only their personal health but also their personal finances."

Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg, of Beth Sholom B'nai Israel, of Manchester, said individuals and families struggling to obtain health care often address religious leaders.

"This is our corner of the universe," said Konigsburg. "No matter what happens at the national level, we need to make sure that everyone in Connecticut is covered."

Many participants at the rally also stated that they were acting in the best interests of the people of Connecticut.

Many said the tolls would have a negative impact on Connecticut's average citizens and families, whether these tolls apply to all vehicles or only semi-trailers.

Jen Ezzell of Lisbon said that if the trucking companies were subject to a toll, they would pass on the extra cost to the distribution centers and the stores, which in turn would put the cost on the residents of Connecticut.

With increased freight costs, residents would also be spending more on sales tax, Ezzell said, giving more money to the state without direct tolling of passenger cars.

"People might think," These are just trucks, "said Ezzell," No, it's all of us. "

Instead of tolls, Ezzell would like the state to eliminate unnecessary spending and make better use of existing funds.

"They took so much money and did not limit their expenses," said Ezzell. "They have to do an audit and find out where their costs are."

If lawmakers opted instead for tolls, Sasser said it would have a significant effect on commuters and small businesses.

Sasser is co-owner of a small business, Sasser Excavating & Trucking LLC, with his brothers.

With taxes already high in the state, Mr. Sasser said that tolls could drive businesses out or discourage them from coming here, and overwhelm families already in trouble.

"It's a huge burden for your household," said Sasser. "Everyone in our state is not rich and we want to live here and stay here."