Advocates and Opponents Struggle Over Toll Roads

While tolling will not fill the Highway Trust Fund gap, it can finance improvements for specific interstate highways that would otherwise be funded by a sustainable trust fund, not one approaching insolvency. Why not allow states the option to toll?

April 7, 2014, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


"Lawmakers and some business groups are pushing to lift the ban on new tolls along existing Interstate highways, a move that would provide additional revenue for road maintenance and repair," writes Ron Nixon. "The opponents, under an umbrella group called the Alliance for a Toll-Free Interstate, include the American Trucking Associations" and many of America's most successful and well-known companies that depend on trucking to move their goods across the country.

"Congress banned tolls on Interstate highways in 1956 when it created the national system under President Dwight D. Eisenhower," writes Nixon, and the revenue mechanism they selected was the federal gas tax. But what happens when they don't increase the gas tax to keep up with expenditures, as is the current case where it hasn't been increased for over two decades?

The pro-toll effort has the support of many state and local transportation officials. They argue that local officials, who can raise their own fuel and sales taxes, cannot come up with the trillions of dollars needed to repair, or in some cases rebuild, sections of the federal Interstate System.

This is not a new issue. In a post last August, we noted that "three states have been exempted from the interstate tolling ban since 1998: I-95 in Va. and N.C, and I-70 in Mo. Only North Carolina appears to be moving forward."

Nixon updates us on the latter. "Last year, the North Carolina House voted unanimously to ban new tolls on any existing Interstate highway, which ended the state’s plan to add tolls on the parts of Interstate 95 that run through eight counties in the state. Gov. Pat McCrory also opposed the tolls."

To their credit, Hayes Framme, a spokesman for the alliance, said his group had "urged Congress to increase the gasoline tax", a view captured by Keith Laing of The Hill in "Congress faces gas tax dilemma" on March 27.

The federal gas tax and interstate highway tolls are both legitimate user fees, as are the still largely theoretical vehicle miles traveled fees. With Congress and the president looking at corporate taxes, an unsustainable, non-user mechanism, i.e a subsidy, to fill the transportation funding gap, does it really make sense to battle between which is the best user fee to use for transportation?

Looking at the aforementioned cases of North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri, even if a state gets permission to apply such a toll, it may never happen.

Thursday, April 3, 2014 in The New York Times - U.S.

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

View south along Interstate 45 (North Freeway) from the ramp between westbound Interstate 10 and southbound Interstate 45 in Houston, Harris County, Texas

Houston Apartments To Be Demolished for Freeway Widening

Despite a federal hold on the controversial freeway widening project, the Texas Department of Transportation is pushing ahead with the demolition of an apartment complex in downtown Houston.

7 hours ago - Houston Chronicle

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

Bakersfield and Fresno Sign

California Budget Includes $4.2 Billion for High-Speed Rail

The recently approved state budget directs $4.2 billion in bond funding to the Bakersfield-to-Merced leg of California’s long-awaited high-speed rail project.

2 hours ago - Sfist

Joe Biden exits a limousine, surrounded by security and staffers, on the way to the Marine One helicopter on a pad near the water in New York City.

Biden’s Environmental Legacy (So Far)

President Biden campaigned on promises to restore many of the environmental regulations rolled back by the previous administration, while promising new efforts to tackle environmental injustice and climate change.

3 hours ago - The Washington Post

Police officer with POLICE on the back of their vest with police car in the background

Help! Not Police! Crisis Responses That Avert Police Calls

Cities, court systems, citizen groups, and affordable housing operators are crafting ways of responding to emergencies that reduce the risk of negative police interactions.

4 hours ago - Shelterforce Magazine

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.