Congress Considers Lifting Toll Ban

March 7, 2014

Like many states, insufficient fuel tax revenue has left Wisconsin without the means to pay for its roads and bridges, says Stateline.

  • Wisconsin's lawmakers are looking to the use of highway tolls to pay for its transportation infrastructure, though such a scheme is illegal under existing law, as federal law prohibits most states from tolling interstates.
  • Wisconsin and others are hoping that Congress will repeal that law this year when the current transportation bill expires at the first of October.

Interstate highway tolls were banned in 1956 with the creation of the interstate highway system, allowing tolls only on the highways that already had them in place. New highways and lanes added to existing interstates are allowed to have tolls, however.

  • The federal gas tax stands at 18.4 cents per gallon.
  • It has remained at that same level since 1993, despite increased fuel efficiency and inflation.
  • The Department of Transportation predicts that the Highway Trust fund -- which is used to fund road projects -- will be depleted by August.

Truckers and delivery companies are opposed to tolls, as are businesses stationed along interstates. Hayes Framme, a spokesman for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates -- a group that includes the American Trucking Associations, UPS, FedEx and Dunkin' Donuts -- says, "Tolling existing interstate lanes is the least efficient, least effective mechanism to fund transportation in the long term."

But those in favor argue that states should at least have the option to secure funding through tolls. Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, says, "From the point of view of the American people, (tolling) is providing another avenue to fund infrastructure that is likely deteriorating." He says that states do not have to toll highways, but, "Just give them the flexibility to do it. Let's have the battle. Let's have the argument."

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has expressed interest in building express lanes that would be tolled (which would also increase road capacity), rather than adding tolls to existing lanes.

Source: Daniel C. Vock, "As Highway Money Runs Dry, Congress Considers Lifting Toll Ban," Stateline, February 26, 2014.

 

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