Tolling the Interstates: Will Indiana be the First?

Indiana is on track to be the first state to apply new tolls on all lanes of selected interstate highways if they are successful in their application for a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration.

October 23, 2017, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Included in the 10 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax legislation that the Indiana legislature passed last April, signed by Gov. Eric J. Holcomb (R), is a provision requiring the Indiana Department of Transportation to seek a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) waiver to toll interstate highways.

Tolling is prohibited on the interstate highway system with the notable exception of the "2,100 miles of toll roads in 15 States" permitted by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.

"Congress created a pilot project in 1998 that allowed Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia to add new tolls to Interstate highways, but toll expansions in those states have run into political opposition," reported Ron Nixon And Danielle Ivory for The New York Times on Dec. 2, 2015 on the FAST Act which had just passed Congress.

Under the new transportation bill, these states will have one year to move ahead with plans to add tolls or lose their slots to other states ready to add tolls to their highways. The new states then would have three years to complete projects or be removed from the pilot.

If Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and state Rep. Edmond Soliday (R-Valparaiso), chair of the House Transportation Committee and author of the transportation funding bill, HB 1002, have their way, Indiana will be adding tolls to not one but multiple interstate highways.

"The state is considering five corridors for tolling," reports Andrew Steele for The Times of Northwest Indiana on Oct. 19. 

  • I-94 from Illinois to Michigan; 
  • I-65 from I-90 south to I-465 and then south from I-465 to the Ohio River; 
  • I-70 from the Illinois state line to I-465, then from I-465 to the Ohio state line. 
  • It is also considering tolling in Indianapolis.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) took the first step on Oct. 17 by posting "a request for proposals, or RFP, from firms interested in developing a strategic plan and doing other preparatory planning," adds Steele. "The agency expects to select a firm by Jan. 26."

Tolling interstates is supported by a Congressional Budget Office study [pdf] last year (posted here) as one of three recommendations to policy makers so that they "could incorporate more direct pricing of the use of roads" along with "implementing vehicle-miles-traveled fees charges and facilitating more congestion pricing."

The legislator behind the push for interstate tolling, House Transportation Chair Soliday, "thinks there will have to be more of them if the state wants to keep its roads in good shape," according to a February post on the introduction of the gas tax bill. "He said the most expensive part of the state’s transportation network are the heavily trafficked interstates that are filled with out-of-state trucks."

Steele goes on to delineate the path toward implementing interstate tolling, provided they are successful in obtaining the FHWA waiver.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

Thursday, October 19, 2017 in The Times of Northwest Indiana

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