Skip to comments.State Should Add Interstate Tolls
Posted on 04/26/2017 7:18:45 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Wisconsins highways are seriously underfunded. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportations Transportation Fund Solvency report, spending only the $28 billion projected to be available over the next decade will lead to double the number of highway miles in poor condition and will preclude even planning any highway expansions for nearly 40 years. Borrowing enough to spend $31 billion would slightly reduce the amount of poor highway miles but still would preclude planning any highway expansions until 2040.
But a second WisDOT report offers a way out. Extensive research done last year for the DOT by the consulting firm HNTB, at the 2015 Legislatures request, analyzed the feasibility of using toll finance to rebuild and modernize the states Interstate highways. Many of these vitally important corridors are nearing the end of their 50-year design life and need to be rebuilt.
A 2011 study that I carried out for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute estimated that rebuilding and selectively widening all of these urban and rural Interstates would cost $26 billion (in 2010 dollars). If those projects could be financed by toll revenue over the next 20 years, that would free up existing federal and state gas tax dollars to address the shortfall in the rest of the highway system.
The HNTB study did not address the cost of rebuilding the Interstates, but it did make conservative estimates of how much toll revenue could be raised from users of the improved corridors, using all-electronic toll collection (no toll booths or plazas). The studys mid-range revenue estimate was $29 billion over 30 years at an average passenger car toll of 8 cents per mile. (Tolls might start at 5 cents per mile and be increased annually by the rate of inflation.) Since my $26 billion estimate was in 2010 dollars, the cost might be a bit higher than the projected revenue of $29 billion, due to construction cost inflation since 2010.
Both federal programs have only a few openings. The three-state pilot program has two open slots, because two former slot-holders didnt make use of them by the deadline that Congress set. Missouri continues to hold its slot, aiming to use toll financing to reconstruct aging I-70 with the addition of dedicated truck lanes.
Both houses of Indianas legislature have passed bills that would authorize their governor to apply for one of those two slots. There is serious legislative interest in Connecticut and tolling talk in several other states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island. If the Wisconsin Legislature fails to act this session, the remaining two slots may be taken this year.
As for the federal Value Pricing Program, its a membership program for states that wish to implement variable tolling (having the toll vary with the level of traffic, like a market price, to keep traffic free-flowing). The program also has only two slots available. Only states that are members are eligible to implement variable tolling on a congested urban Interstate. Connecticut and Illinois are both members; Wisconsin is not. That, too, is an opportunity that might not exist by next years legislative session.
The Legislature need not decide this session that Interstate tolling is the way to go. But if toll-financed Interstate reconstruction is a serious possibility after further study and debate, Wisconsins applying to one or both of these federal programs this spring can be seen as an insurance policy. The HNTB study is more comprehensive and detailed than anything Indiana has done, so an application from Wisconsin is likely to be taken seriously by the Federal Highway Administration.
Tolls are not everyones cup of tea, but thanks to its robust tolling program for major highways, Illinois is moving ahead with widening and reconstruction projects comparable to those that are stalled in Wisconsin. High-quality infrastructure is a key factor in business location decisions and economic competitiveness. Wisconsin needs to solve its highway funding shortfall, and toll-financed Interstate modernization is a powerful tool for doing so.
Robert W. Poole Jr. is director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, which he co-founded in 1978.
This story was originally published by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
Uh, just NO.
Wisconsins highways are seriously underfunded.Or maybe they are overfunded and the funds that ought to have been there were absconded by an avaricious public sector bent on subsidizing refugees or suchlike.
question — there are gas taxes collected every time we get gas. What is this money being spent on, if not road maintenance as intended???
If there are shortfalls, perhaps we could discuss raising gas taxes, if we really need more dedicated money for road maintenance.
But it seems out of bounds to me, to convert roads to toll roads, to get an additional source of revenue, when we already theoretically have that dedicated revenue in the form of gasoline and diesel fuel taxes.
“Federal law still bans most forms of Interstate tolling.”
I never heard of that. Driving between DC/NY, one encounters tolls in every state, MD, DE, NJ, NY... the toll for bridges/tunnels between NYC/NJ is heavy (ask any commuter). Of course, those tunnels and bridges, except possibly one, preceded the interstate highway system, but I believe were incorporated into it. Maybe because of that they got an exception on tolling?
I always wondered why in driving down I95, say from NY to FL, there are tolls in all the states north of DC, but none south of DC. VA is the first state on that drive that one encounters that doesn’t have tolls on the interstate.
Oh my gosh. Do the road builders ever stop their insatiable quest for tax money? NO WAY!
Sure, set up toll roads and track drivers and never, ever stop bilking the public. Just look at loser Illinois. Their roads suck and their toll roads were supposed to be temporary, now it’s just an ongoing state/union scam.
Banning the word “underfunded” needs to be moved-up on our To Do List.
Where the hell is all the money that was supposed to go to them?
I drive from NY to Ohio every week- as soon as I hit NY it’s “Welcome to NY, that’ll be $3.15 please” (each way)
Nothing in PA, nothing in Ohio... and their roads are fine.
I worked at a spot where I could see a tool booth out the window once. After the morning rush, there were no cars. So a quick calculation showed they were having a toll booth there for the purpose of paying a toll-taker...
THIS IS A LOSS OF WEALTH.
News to me. I405 variable tolling is in place here in WA The toll lane is the HOV lane. Pretty sure there are others.
Jim Doyle gave at least a billion dollars of highway money to the schools.
“So a quick calculation showed they were having a toll booth there for the purpose of paying a toll-taker...”
Similar to my conversation with a receptionist at a NYS Office Of the Aging re my elderly mother. I asked, “Why doesn’t NY lower taxes so retiring children can afford to live here and care for their elderly parents? That way you wouldn’t be so overworked.”
She said, “Oh, the office isn’t here to help the people. It’s here to hire employees to work here.”
I was speechless, and realized she was telling the truth. Later I found out she had only been there a week and she wasn’t supposed to actually blurt out the truth.
Current toll facilities Washington currently has four toll facilities:
Earlier toll roads were grandfathered into the Interstate Highway system.
Federal law does allow new toll lanes to be built on existing federal highways. HOV lanes can also be converted to toll lanes, as happened with the reversible I-95 HOV lanes in northern Virginia. The same thing is happening or about to happen to the ones on I-395 up to the Pentagon.
In political speak, telling the truth is known as a gaffe.
The word does have its uses; to wit-
Bernie Madoff was underfunded.
It would be great if many of the new roads were privately funded. Then charge tolls for profit. No problem with that.
“question there are gas taxes collected every time we get gas. What is this money being spent on, if not road maintenance as intended?”
I once did design work on rehabbing an old railroad station into a museum...it had federal highway funding.
That’s just a small example...but you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to wasted highway money.
Because that's the CommieWannaBe Corridor!
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