It hasn’t gotten much notice, and even some insiders (like Jim Aloisi) won’t acknowledge it, but a confluence of events over the last spelled an end to the Great Toll Inequity issue.
I’ve got the detailed theory in a column here.
In summary: The transportation reform bill includes a provision prohibiting use of toll revenue on any untolled road – or to pay for bonds on any untolled road. Second, the budget includes $100 million a year from the sales tax – a commitment extended for 30 years last week by the Patrick Administration, for the express purpose of paying off Pike bonds. Finally, the SJC ruled in a Fall River case that a fee must be appropriate to the service paid for; otherwise it’s a tax. Thus, they backed up the claim made in Jan Schlictmann’s class action suit that Pike tollpayers should be paid back for toll money shoveled into the Big Dig.
It’s always interesting the things that don’t get noticed in June when you legislate in secret and in haste.