Toll May Return to Western Portion of Mass Pike

Motorists using the western-most section of the Mass Turnpike may soon have to pay tolls again. Under a tax bill debated Wednesday by the House and Senate, use of the roadway between Springfield and the New York state line would no longer be free. 
 
The compromise bill is intended to fund transportation projects across the Commonwealth. It directs the Department of Transportation to develop a plan to restore tolls to the Mass Turnpike from Exit 1 in West Stockbridge to Exit 6 in Springfield. This section of the interstate has been without a fee since 1996. State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli of Lenox represents the region that includes Exits 1 and 2 in the Berkshires. Pignatelli says restoring tolls is one way to generate funds for a backlog of transportation projects.
 
“We’re talking to the tune of 20 to 25 billion-dollars in a backlog, so I think every city and town has a roadway or a bridge that is underfunded or in deplorable shape and there’s not enough money coming back.” 
 
State officials estimate the new tolls will generate more than 10-million-dollars annually in new revenue. Pignatelli says he would like to see the money used specifically for projects in Western Massachusetts.
 
“Those of us in western Massachusetts, from Springfield to the Berkshires, we can try to solve a lot of our own infrastructure problems if we were able to retain the revenues that get generated in our catchment area, so I hope it’s certainly part of the discussion.” 
 
The bill also requires the Patrick Administration to study the possibility of establishing interstate tolls along the Commonwealth’s borders. The measure raises taxes on gasoline and cigarettes.