NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Avoiding Federal Hassles, Cities And States Turn To Toll Roads

February 4, 2000

States and traffic-congested cities are going it alone to build new highways -- avoiding federal aid and the rules and regulations that brings. Increasingly, they are financing construction by relying on tolls, experts say.

  • There are 5,000 miles of toll roads nationwide -- including 6 percent of the 42,800 miles of the interstate highway.
  • Nationwide, states and counties collected nearly $5 billion in tolls in 1998.
  • Most of the $64 billion in federal gasoline taxes collected in 1998 is being used to maintain and improve the nation's existing interstate highways.
  • More than $107 billion was spent on U.S. highway construction in 1998.

State and local leaders are increasingly avoiding going to Washington for assistance. This is due in part to competition for funding, which requires the help and political clout of members of Congress in the appropriations process. Avoiding federal money also means escaping hundreds of stringent federal regulations -- such as environmental impact statements.

Environmental groups who can protest and throw up roadblocks to construction at the federal level are sometimes less successful in battling projects at the state and local levels. So less time, money and energy is wasted in the course of toll projects.

Source: Debbie Howlett, "States Bypass Rules, Costs, Delays With Toll Roads," USA Today, February 4, 2000.


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