Tolls Could Come to an Interstate Near You

The interstate system in the US can now be subject to tolls – thanks to a new move by the Obama Administration. This isn’t just an inconvenience for people who use the interstate throughout the country. Consider the number of products that are transported using the interstate system – tolls will be added into the cost of getting products to your local store or distribution centers throughout the country. Its just one more cost that consumers will have to absorb. There is also the initial cost to states to build the toll collection booths etc to begin collecting tolls. We will have to watch and see what the individual states decide to do on this subject.

From the Washington Post

The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling.

The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need.

That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient.

“The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.”

While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.

The corporate tax reform proposal has gotten a lukewarm reception even from Democrats in Congress, and Foxx emphasized that the administration is open to any counterproposal that wins bipartisan support.

Here is some background on the interstate system from Wikipedia.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (commonly known as the Interstate Highway System, Interstate Freeway System, Interstate System, or simply the Interstate) is a network of freeways that forms a part of the National Highway System of the United States. The system is named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who championed its formation. Construction was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and the original portion was completed 35 years later. The network has since been extended, and as of 2012, it had a total length of 47,714 miles (76,788 km),[2] making it the world’s second longest after China‘s. As of 2011, about one-quarter of all vehicle miles driven in the country use the Interstate system.[3] The cost of construction has been estimated at $425 billion (in 2006 dollars).[4]

Details about the funding of the interstate system – including details on when and why a very small portion is subject to tolls —

Financing[edit]

Interstate highways and their rights of way are owned by the state in which they were built. The last federally owned portion of the Interstate System was the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Washington DC Capital Beltway. The new bridge was completed in 2009 and is collectively owned by Virginia and Maryland[41] Maintenance is generally the responsibility of the state department of transportation. However, there are some segments of Interstate owned and maintained by local authorities.

About 70 percent of the construction and maintenance costs of Interstate Highways in the United States have been paid through user fees, primarily the fuel taxes collected by the federal, state, and local governments. To a much lesser extent they have been paid for by tolls collected on toll highways and bridges. The Highway Trust Fund, established by the Highway Revenue Act in 1956, prescribed a three-cent-per-gallon fuel tax, soon increased to 4.5 cents per gallon. In 1993 the tax was increased to 18.4 cents per gallon, where it remains as of 2012.[42]

The rest of the costs of these highways are borne by general fund receipts, bond issues, designated property taxes, and other taxes. The federal contribution comes overwhelmingly from motor vehicle and fuel taxes (93.5 percent in 2007), and it makes up about 60 percent of the contributions by the states. However, any local government contributions are overwhelmingly from sources besides user fees.[43] The portion of the user fees spent on highways themselves covers about 57 percent of their costs, with about one-sixth of the user fees being sent to other programs, including themass transit systems in large cities. In the northeastern United States, some large sections of Interstate Highways that were planned or constructed before 1956 are still operated as toll roads. Others have had their construction bonds paid off and they have become toll-free, such as in Connecticut (I‑95), Maryland (I‑95), Virginia (I‑95), and Kentucky (I‑65).

As American suburbs have expanded, the costs incurred in maintaining freeway infrastructure have also grown, leaving little in the way of funds for new Interstate construction.[44]This has led to the proliferation of toll roads (turnpikes) as the new method of building limited-access highways in suburban areas. Some Interstates are privately maintained (for example, the VMS company maintains I‑35 in Texas)[45] to meet rising costs of maintenance and allow state departments of transportation to focus on serving the fastest-growing regions in their states.

Parts of the Interstate System might have to be tolled in the future to meet maintenance and expansion demands, as has been done with adding toll HOV/HOT lanes in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Although part of the tolling is an effect of the SAFETEA‑LU act, which has put an emphasis on toll roads as a means to reduce congestion,[46][47] present federal law does not allow for a state to change a freeway section to a tolled section for all traffic.[citation needed]

Toll Interstate Highways[edit]

Approximately 2,900 miles (4,700 km) of toll roads are included in the Interstate Highway System.[48] While federal legislation initially banned the collection of tolls on Interstates, many of the toll roads on the system were either completed or under construction when the Interstate Highway System was established. Since these highways provided logical connections to other parts of the system, they were designated as Interstate highways. Congress also decided that it was too costly to either build toll-free Interstates parallel to these toll roads, or directly repay all the bondholders who financed these facilities and remove the tolls. Thus, these toll roads were grandfathered into the Interstate Highway System.[49]

Toll facilities designated as Interstate highways (such as the Massachusetts Turnpike) were typically allowed to continue collecting tolls, but are generally ineligible to receive federal funds for maintenance and improvements. In addition, these toll facilities were grandfathered from Interstate Highway standards. A notable example is the western approach to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, where I-676 has a surface street section through a historic area.

Policies on toll facilities and Interstate Highways have since changed. The Federal Highway Administration has allowed some states to collect tolls on existing Interstate Highways, while a recent extension of I-376 included a section of Pennsylvania Route 60 that was tolled by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission before receiving Interstate designation. Also, newer toll facilities (like the tolled section of I‑376, which was built in the early 1990s) must conform to Interstate standards. A new addition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 2009 requires a black-on-yellow “Toll” sign to be placed above the Interstate trailblazer on Interstate Highways that collect tolls.[50]

Legislation passed in 2005 known as SAFETEA-LU, encouraged states to construct new Interstate Highways through “innovative financing” methods. SAFETEA-LU facilitated states to pursue innovative financing by easing the restrictions on building interstates as toll roads, either through state agencies or through public–private partnerships. However, SAFETEA‑LU left in place a prohibition of installing tolls on existing toll-free Interstates, and states wishing to toll such routes to finance upgrades and repairs must first seek approval from Congress.

Chargeable and non-chargeable Interstate routes[edit]

Interstate Highways financed with federal funds are known as “chargeable” Interstate routes, and are considered part of the 42,000-mile (68,000 km) network of highways. Federal laws also allow “non-chargeable” Interstate routes, highways funded similarly to state and U.S. Highways to be signed as Interstates, if they both meet the Interstate Highway standards and are logical additions or connections to the system.[51][52] These additions fall under two categories: routes that already meet Interstate standards, and routes not yet upgraded to Interstate standards. Only routes that meet Interstate standards may be signed as Interstates once their proposed number is approved.[38]

 

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