States Want to Add Toll Roads to Fund Repairs
Because of shortfalls in gas taxes, states seek to make up the revenue with tolls.
High fuel prices may not be the only factor adding to the cost of driving -- you could soon be paying tolls to use public highways. In the past, drivers have paid at the pump for infrastructure improvements, since fuel taxes have traditionally funded road and bridge construction and repairs. But with fuel tax revenues dropping and raising taxes currently a political hot potato in Congress, some states are considering adding tolls to highways in order to make up for transportation-infrastructure repair shortfalls.
Toll-accessed turnpikes have existed in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, since before the advent of the Interstate system in 1956. And 2,900 miles of the 47,000-mile Interstate system have “grandfathered” authorization to collect tolls. But restrictions currently preclude other states from enacting tolls on federally funded highways except in certain circumstances.
Now, however, states are increasingly asking Congress to loosen the rules on their ability to charge tolls. While tolls are an imperfect solution for several reasons -- including an increase in bottlenecks and potential mismanagement by private toll collectors -- for many states it’s the best and perhaps the only option to pay for keeping aging transportation infrastructure in shape.
Tolling is less efficient than having everyone pay at the pump. But with fewer people driving because of the economy and more fuel-efficient cars hitting the road, revenues from gas taxes are down. Fuel tax revenues at federal and state levels peaked in 2007, at $72.4 billion, and then dropped to $68.6 billion in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. But state toll collections rose from $4.9 billion in 2000 to $8.9 billion in 2010, and locally administered tolls rose from $1.6 billion in 2000 to $2.5 billion in 2009. So it’s easy to see why states want to slap more tolls on more roads.
States aren’t expecting Congress to help out by raising federal fuel taxes, especially in an election year. Congress hasn’t increased the federal gas and diesel taxes in almost two decades, even though a congressional commission created to recommend ways to fund the maintenance of the U.S. transportation system predicted that the U.S. would encounter horrendous congestion unless more is spent on upkeep.
That’s why an easing of the federal ban on Interstate toll collection is now on the table. The Transportation Department has selected Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri for pilot toll projects. The feds have approved such projects on Interstate 95 in Virginia and North Carolina and on Interstate 70 in Missouri, for example.
A $2 billion project will add High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstate 495 in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. While Virginia can't afford to build the lanes, capital raised by a private investment partnership and a $586 million federal loan have helped fund the project. Only drivers with an automated E-ZPass will be able use the lanes, and toll prices will vary depending on traffic volume. If toll lanes are packed, prices will rise until enough drivers decide to exit into the slower lanes. The goal is to give drivers a way to get where they’re going more quickly -- but only if they’re willing to pay for it. Cars with three or more passengers will be able to use the lanes without paying the toll.
Another issue with tolling is its higher staffing and mechanization costs compared with just paying at the pump, and accounting for where all the money drives pay for tolls goes. Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst with the consumer advocacy group U.S. PIRG, told the Associated Press that the administrative costs involved with tolling far outweigh those of gas taxes. He also added that tolling agencies could also use more scrutiny, since public disclosure and other transparency rules don't always apply. Consequently, the agencies usually operate without oversight, which creates an environment for corruption or manipulation by industry, Baxandall said.
A March report by the New Jersey comptroller apparently proved Baxandall’s observations correct: It said that cronyism and mismanagement at the Delaware River Port Authority, which manages four bridges, a ferry and a rail line across the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, had wasted millions of dollars.
In the meantime, motorists are caught between Congress telling state and local governments not to pursue greater tolling while it simultaneously fails to provide an alternative source of funding. And they could be caught in more traffic on top of all that. In addition to having to slow to pay tolls, side roads could become more clogged as thrifty motorists use them to avoid paying their way.
I like how we vote on mill levies on road repairs and still have yet to see it because the government decided to divert it to military spending or on other programs completely worthless to the general public. We use to have a highway infrastructure worth boasting about but, over the years have never really maintained it and when it came time to maintain it, the tax money we voted to be used for fixing roads never gets used for roads.
Adding a toll road is not the solution at least where I live because a private company owns it maintains it and charges an arm and leg to drive on it. Sure, it cuts down on commute time but who in their right mind is going to pay $45 to drive to the otherside of town daily and one way?
I'd rather pay another nickle per gallon than have more tolls. Been there done that... 7 years living near Chicago. With very little difficulty (just going back and forth to work) you could rack up $40 in tolls per month. Add in the lower fuel economy due to all the congestion... Very inefficient way to collect money as well. I doubt if for every dollar in tolls, the state got more than 20 cents... And the roads weren't that great.
What would a nickle do?
12,000 miles per year at 25 mpg would add $24 to your yearly fuel bill.
Anything is better than toll roads.
But in all honesty: how about managing income and expenses better?
Boo on toll roads. Taxes on fuel are one of the best reveunue sources because it effectively taxes use. Heavier vehicles are taxed more because they need more fuel to move, and their heavier weight causes more wear on the roads. Lighter vehicles that are more fuel effecient end up paying less per mile and since they cause less wear on the roadway makes sense.
The new fish is the purely electric and hybrid vehicles. Should there be an off-setting collection for the reduced fuel they use despite having similar wear as other vehicles?
It is very easy to explain, although those "suffering" might not necessarily like the explanation:
we live in a country of opportunities, although many people today are self-centered, selfish, and ungrateful and hence forget that.
Anyone who puts their mind to it and applies themselves can get a government loan to go to school and get scholarships if they are a good student. I know this first hand because 50% of my education costs were paid for by free scholarships because of my grades. All one had to do was apply for them by writing an essay and submit proof of academic performance, and, of course, assimilate knowledge. Many communities have local scholarship funds available for the taking, one only need research and apply for them.
Everyone in this country has access to those same facilities as I did. Poor are poor because they do not care, not because that is their lot in life. It is their choice to suffer, or not. Everything starts with the mind to do something.
Because science propels the society forward, and though you might not realize this, there might be clues on Mars for curing cancer on Earth, and many other things beside that.
Honestly frostyross... I am sorely disappointed by your comment. Science, research and development are critical to the better future of the United States, and must be considered of utmost and paramount importance to the national interest: without science, research, and development, there will be no new jobs, mark my words and mark them well!
The predicament we are in right now is in large part due to the fact that most of our population is uneducated and does not have the necessary knowledge and skills to command the scientific and engineering jobs. There are so many open vacancies and no qualified people to fill them because a lot of people think like you. Most people can only do menial jobs, but we do not need that. We need engineers and scientists and must import them from other countries, or hope they stay and do not leave when they come here to study engineering and science. That is bad for us, bad that our own do not wish to "warm up the chair" and study, and bad that we have to depend on someone else, and even worse that our own people do not understand why we have to push for research with all our might and resources.
Then make new jobs. This country was built on private enterpreneurship. Strike out on your own, and if you fail, keep trying until you succeed. The crooks who took your job away from you will not be giving it back to you; they made their money. The only one who is sure to guarantee you a job is yourself; and that too is part of being an American self-made man or woman.
You have some valid points but you need to walk a mile in the shoes of some of these people before you condemn them as " self centered, ungrateful and selfish". To assume that because you pulled it off in your situation, so everyone else should be able to, is a bit shallow.
There are many that abuse the system but many more that do not have the means to do what you did. Were you supporting a family without any other means of income at the time? Doubt it.
Were you already drowning in debt and fighting off collectors? Doubt it.
Like it or not, there are people that NEED help and for you to just snub them because you made it is rather conceded and rude. Sorry.
Americans help each other.
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