Toll Roads: Are They Taking a Toll?

Throughout the U.S., states are trying to balance budgets and solve shortfalls. Often, this comes at the cost of fuel taxes being redirected to fill holes in non-transportation budgets. The result is an aging transportation infrastructure with little to no upkeep. As more and more states feel the pressures placed on their budgets and infrastructure from reduced revenue and increasing expenses, leaders look to new solutions to support decreasing transportation budgets.

One (not so new) solution many states are now considering is turning interstates into toll roads. In the beginning, toll roads were quite common in the U.S. and remained popular throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. With improvements to the national and state transportation systems and the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act, toll roads slowly became the exception, not the standard. Today, toll roads only account for a quarter of one percent of roads in the U.S. Yet, if state legislators have their way, that number is about to grow.

As states such as Connecticut and Pennsylvania look to create new toll roads, and current toll roads raise fares, what impact will this have on transportation? For the average consumer driver, that answer is probably little, for the commercial driver it means so much more. Most roads considered for tolls are important to the trucking industry, which is already battling rising fuel costs. Already having to pay diesel and excise taxes, most see toll roads as double taxation, and all will be impacted. With tight operating margins, fleets may not be able to raise rates to make up for the extra cost tolls bring, or may risk losing their competitive advantage. Additionally, to avoid the added costs, drivers will begin using more local roads, which increases crash risk, as these roads are not designed for heavy commercial traffic use.

When states are faced with these difficult decisions and budgetary issues, it's important to remember all the parties who will be affected, and the importance that our transportation infrastructure plays in the health of our economy.

This entry was posted on April 16th, 2012 by jhubbard and is filed under Recent News & Updates.