Legislation to Toll Indiana Interstates and Hike Gas Tax Introduced

Tolls on interstate highways are being pushed in Indiana as a means to increase road funding, no easy task even if a waiver is given. The bill would also increase the gas tax and charge electric vehicle owners a fee for road maintenance.
February 6, 2017, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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While House Bill 1002 would tackle many parts of the transportation funding equation, the thrust of the article by Daniel C. VockGoverning’s transportation and infrastructure reporter, lays with tolling.

Tolls have been a fact of life in Indiana for at least 60 years, but state Rep. Edmond Soliday thinks there will have to be more of them if the state wants to keep its roads in good shape.

Soliday, a Republican who chairs his chamber’s transportation committee, said the most expensive part of the state’s transportation network are the heavily trafficked interstates that are filled with out-of-state trucks. Federal law, however, prevents states from tolling existing interstates without a waiver. [Italics added].

[HB 1002] would instruct the Indiana Department of Transportation to apply for a federal waiver and to study how tolls could be added.

A February 2016 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report [PDF] recommended interstate tolls, along with vehicle-miles-travelled fees as funding options. And the federal transportation reauthorization bill, the FAST Act, signed by former President Obama on December 4, 2015, made changes to that effect, as posted here last February:

[Those changes were] good for states willing and ready to add tolls to interstates, not good for Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia—the three states that had prior authorization to add tolls. They now "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," wrote Ron Nixon And Danielle Ivory for The New York Times. "The new states then would have three years to complete projects or be removed from the pilot."

Missouri was considering a proposal to toll I-70 which stalled in 2012; North Carolina had a proposal to toll I-95, and Virginia ran into stiff opposition to toll a 179-mile stretch of Interstate 95. Even the Southern Environmental Law Center joined in opposition to the toll proposal.

The latest news report this correspondent found was that the I-95 proposals by North Carolina and Virginia were unsuccessful. See related post, also based on a Governing article.

Without the support of "GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb, [who] is reportedly against the idea," notes Vock, it's unlikely Indiana would be on the new list.

Gas Tax, Tolls, Electric Vehicle (EV) Fees, Registration Fees

Total state gas taxes and fees in Hoosier State as of New Year's was 33.59 cents per gallon [PDF]. As noted in "New Years Day State Gas Tax Increases...," the gas tax varies each month with the price of gas. It has increased 2.39 cents since Nov. 1. 

HB 1002 also allows for a one-time gas tax increase of up to 10-cents per gallon. In addition, it:

  • Requires a person who registers an electric vehicle to pay a supplemental registration fee of $150 with an increase every five years based on an index factor.
  • Increases annual registration fees for certain motor vehicles with a declared gross weight that equals or exceeds 26,000 pounds.
  • Repeals restrictions on when a tolling project can be undertaken.

Last February, the Indiana House passed a 4-cents gas tax increase bill written by Soliday only to see the tax increases stripped from the bill by the Senate in March. [See related post.]

"The bottom line, said Soliday, is that Indiana can’t achieve its goals without tolling or something else that will bring in that kind of revenue," adds Vock.
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Published on Monday, January 30, 2017 in Governing
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