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Survey: Tolls OK if Revenue Improves Road Conditions

A survey by HNTB Corp. found that 79 percent of respondents would support tolling currently untolled roads, including highways, if the revenue was used to improve traveling conditions on the tolled road.
September 18, 2014, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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A survey conducted by HNTB Corp., "an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm," found that 79 percent of U.S. residents "would support the addition of a toll on a non-tolled surface transportation facility if it resulted in a safer, congestion-free and more reliable trip," writes Keith Laing of The Hill.

It's a win-win, advocates argue. In addition to improving roads through better upkeep and reduced congestion, it would also reduce the $16 billion annual Highway Trust Fund shortfall (if tolls applied on federal highways.)

However, the anti-tolling Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) disputed the support for expanding tolling in the U.S. was as high as the HNTB poll found, pointing to other surveys that have painted a more muddled picture of public opinion on the topic.

It would appear that advocates face an uphill battle, notwithstanding the president's support for inclusion of tolling interstates in his Grow America plan. Tolling was not included in Sen. Barbara Boxer's stalled MAP-21 Reauthorization Act in order to keep it noncontentious. 

Contradicting the HNTB poll was a May 7 poll showing overwhelming opposition to tolling interstate highways. 

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of American Adults favor putting tolls on Interstate highways for infrastructure maintenance. Three times as many (65%) are opposed to turning the nation’s Interstates into toll roads, something that has been banned since 1956 when the highway system was created.

Rasmussen did not compare toll increases to gas tax increases though, which is what an academic poll in Wisconsin did (posted here). While tolls were viewed more favorably than hiking gas taxes, it was suggested that respondents may have opted for tolls because they could avoid driving on a tolled road - while increased gas taxes would be inescapable.

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Published on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in The Hill
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