Western Mass Toll Hiker Aaron Vega to Run for Western Mass Senate Special

A little noticed part of the recently passed transportation finance bill is a provision reinstating, after 17 years, the tolls on the westernmost six exits of the Massachusetts Turnpike.  MassLive.com has the details.

Drivers of passenger vehicles would begin paying tolls again on Oct. 15 between Exits 1 and 6 on the western end of the Massachusetts Turnpike, according to a plan by state transportation officials.

State legislators in July gave final approval to a transportation financing law that ordered the restoration of passenger-vehicle tolls between Exit 1 in West Stockbridge and Exit 6 for Springfield.

Those tolls were eliminated in 1996 by a board controlled by former Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican who was running to oust U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry at the time.

Cynthia M. Roy Gonzalez, director of communications for the state Department of Transportation, said the tolls will cost the same as they did when they were removed in 1996. She said the department is planning to reinstate the tolls on Oct. 15.

State Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke), who represents Western Mass, voted for the transportation finance bill, all the taxes it instituted, and this reinstatement of tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike’s western six exits.  Now he’s pulled papers to run for the senate seat which Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) just resigned.  

…continued after the jump

State Rep. Aaron M. Vega, D-Holyoke, said Monday he will take out nomination papers for a possible run for the state Senate seat vacated by Michael R. Knapik.

“We’re still talking to people,” said Vega, who is also a city councilor, “but I will more than likely be pulling papers today. We’ve been getting a lot of encouragement.”

Western Mass residents are not pleased at this latest development.

To motorists at the Pride Travel Center, including Victor Burgos, 40, of Springfield, this is hardly a bargain.

“They’re not giving us anything more (for the tolls); they’re just charging more for the same service,” he said.

East Longmeadow resident Kelly Gustafson took a similarly dim view of the new tolls. A North Dakota native, Gustafson moved here eight years ago, long after Exits 1 to 6 had gone toll-free.

“I never knew you had to pay to begin with,” Gustafson said.

Another motorist, Victor Retynsky, of Wilbraham, predicted that the tolls will trigger a backlash.

“I think they’ll be repealed by 2015,” he said.

Looks like Don Humason has a very good issue to run on, if Vega is the Democratic nominee.  

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