NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 20, 2005

As states face decreasing gas tax revenues and more demand for highways, toll lanes are being considered by many legislatures as an answer to maintaining roads raising additional revenues, says the National Journal.

The federal Highway Trust fund, which is made up of an 18.4-cent tax imposed on every gallon of gas, is used to maintain roads and build new ones: However, funds are dwindling while road usage is increasing.

  • From 1970 to 2000, average fuel economy has increased by 41 percent.
  • While fuel efficiency has increased the number of miles Americans drive by 148 percent, they have purchased only 76 percent more gasoline to do so.
  • Drivers averaged 13,500 miler per year in 1995, compared to 10,000 miles in 1977.

In other words, drivers are using roads more, but are paying less to use them, says the National Journal. Furthermore, of the 46,730 miles of road, only 2,900 miles are toll roads. And increasing use of roads brings increasing costs of maintenance and repair:

  • In 2002, federal, state and local governments spent $140 billion to build, operate and repair roads.
  • Only 5 percent, or $7.3 billion, came from toll road revenues.

While toll roads are not popular with the public, Congress is considering a proposal to allow states more leeway to adopt tolling measures, which could generate an additional $50 million per year to state highway systems, says the National Journal.

Source: Brian Friel, "Are Tolls the Answer?" National Journal, December 18, 2004.

For text National Journal (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Environment Issues