NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texans Unhappy with Growth in Toll Roads

October 21, 2014

States across the country are facing the question of how to reduce traffic congestion and improve roadways without hitting drivers with new taxes -- hence the rise in support for toll roads among policymakers. But Miguel Bustillo and Nathan Koppel report that not everyone is taking kindly to the growth in roads that require payment from drivers.

Highways are funded by the federal gas tax which has sat at 18.4 cents per gallon since the early 1990s. States have their own gasoline taxes as well; Texas, for example, imposes a 20-cent gas tax, as it has since 1991. Rather than raise those taxes, tolls have become more prevalent, especially in Texas:

  • Today, there are 5,400 miles of toll roads in the United States -- a 15 percent increase over the previous 10 years.
  • Texas alone has 500 miles of toll roads, and the state has two dozen more projects in the works that would add over 300 more toll miles.
  • Texas has used public-private partnerships to construct the toll ways, with private companies financing construction costs in exchange for a portion of the toll revenue.

While the toll model may be a more sustainable highway funding mechanism, many drivers are growing frustrated with the tolls, and the state's Republican Party rewrote its platform to announce its opposition to toll roads this year. Even so, policymakers in Texas say that the state will continue to face congestion and a shortage of funding unless it embraces toll roads. 

Source: Miguel Bustillo and Nathan Koppel, "In Texas, Toll Roads Proliferate—and a Backlash Builds," Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2014. 


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