The tolls are returning to the western end of the Massachusetts Turnpike, and the toll of $1.75 to go from Exit 1 in West Stockbridge to Exit 6 in Springfield is not unreasonable given the money to be generated to maintain and upgrade that stretch of heavily used highway. The only real issue that remains is whether or not to grant some relief to regular users of the turnpike from Western Massachusetts.
Those who carpool with three or more people receive a discount, as they should, as carpooling cuts down on gas usage, pollution and wear and tear on the turnpike. Discounts elsewhere in the state are not unprecedented. Residents of Charlestown and Chelsea receive a discount to go over the Tobin Memorial Bridge, which is defensible as that is the link between the communities, and some Bostonians get a discount to go through the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels, which is indefensible. The discount was provided as compensation for the inconvenience of dealing with Big Dig construction, but while repairs to those tunnels will be frequent, the mess that was the Big Dig is gone. Boston-dominated Beacon Hill, however, won't be ending the discounts.
State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat who supports the return of the tolls to the turnpike exits in the Berkshires, proposes a variation on the carpool discount that would give a break to county residents who are required to use the turnpike to get to and from their places of employment. The toll discounts would apply to 10 trips per month. Work would be the only reason for a discount -- Berkshire drivers heading east someday to go to a Springfield or Palmer casino need not apply.
A better argument can be made for this discount than for the Boston tunnel discounts, and it would not dramatically impact the amount of money to be generated by the return of the tolls to Western Massachusetts. And that is the bottom line, as after 17 years of lost revenue, those tolls will raise the funds needed to keep this critical Berkshire link to the rest of the state safe and well-maintained.