Mass. lawmakers weigh toll tax during peak traffic times to stop congestion

BOSTON (WHDH) - Some lawmakers are considering taxing motorists who drive during peak traffic hours as a way to relieve congestion choking Boston and other parts of the state — but others are wary of the plan.

At a hearing at the State House Tuesday, supporters of a bill that would create congestion pricing argued it would cut down on heavy traffic and encourage off-peak travel.

“We’ve seen it work in other states,” said State Sen. Joseph Boncore, D-Boston. “The tolls at peak hours would be raised by 25 percent, and at off-peak reduced by 25 percent.”

Transportation advocates said Boston is behind the times and should adopt congestion pricing.

“Getting 5 percent of people off the road can have a 20 percent reduction in traffic, so for people who don’t have that flexibility, they actually benefit from having a much faster trip to work,” said Chris Dempsey of Transportation for Massachusetts.

But congestion pricing would rely on the current toll gantry system, meaning drivers on non-toll roads like I-93 would not be charged. Some lawmakers said that wouldn’t be fair.

“I just don’t understand how congestion pricing would work when there’s really no way for any of us west of Worcester to get to this part of the state other than driving,” said Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton.

Some commuters were also skeptical.

“I don’t necessarily think taxing is the way to go,” said Anthony Martinez.

“They just need to work on tax incentives for companies that will allow people to remote work and work from home and take some of that congestion off the road,” said Ethan Caouette, of Leominster.

Gov. Charlie Baker has downplayed congestion pricing and pushed for paid travel lanes, also known as “luxury lanes” that let drivers buy high-speed access, and tax incentives for working at home.

The congestion pricing bill remains in committee.

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