The End of the World's Fastest, Free Drive?

The free part, not the fast part that is. Perhaps it was just a matter of time before Germany considered a toll for its autobahn network like neighbors Switzerland and Austria do. Germans could deduct the annual toll from their vehicle taxes.

2 minute read

November 2, 2014, 7:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Americans could learn a thing or two from the "Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government plans to make foreigners driving on Germany’s autobahns pay as much as 130 euros ($164) a year, ending free use of the highways for passenger cars," write Brian Parkin and Patrick Donahue of Bloomberg News about the German plan.

Don't call it a toll!

Germany’s plan, billed as an “infrastructure surcharge,” coincides with a drive across the European Union to drum up finance for public-works projects and ward off an economic slump.

The impetus for the toll, or “infrastructure surcharge,” comes from neighbors Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic charging tolls on their autobahn or motorway networks. The proposed toll “fills a fairness gap,” Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told reporters in Berlin, write Parkin and Donahue, as well as "pressure to make users pay for upkeep."

According to The German Way, "Switzerland was the first to charge motorists an annual flat fee for the use of its autobahn network (r)ather than a kilometer-based turnpike toll, such as that exacted on France’s autoroutes or Italy’s autostradas." However, tolls paid by their own residents are not rebated.

The German Way suggests that rebating the annual toll to a nation's taxpayers "may violate EU law."

The proposal "coincides with a drive across the European Union to drum up finance for public-works projects and ward off an economic slump," write Parkin and Donahue. “User-model” financing for building roads “has a future in Europe,” Dobrindt said.

"Under this week’s proposal, the toll would start to be collected in 2016," writes Anton Troianovski of The Wall Street Journal. "Compliance would be monitored electronically based on license plates."

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