New highway miles paid for with tolls have far outpaced the overall growth of the U.S. road system, according to a recent analysis by Brookings.
In 2013, tolls covered some 5,400 miles of roadways nationally, up 15.1% over 10 years, the report says. That’s compared to a 3.6% growth in total system mileage.
The proliferation of tolls on Interstates is even greater: up 17% compared to a 2% increase in the mileage overall.
“Over time, tolls are becoming a fixture across many regions, especially as federal policymakers are reluctant to raise general revenue to pay for transportation projects,” the analysis concludes. “Amidst federal dysfunction, every financing option appears to be on the table to repair the country’s infrastructure, and tolls are likely to be one of many possibilities attracting attention in the months to come.”
The Brookings report comes as the Obama administration, with its six-year, half-billion dollar transportation plan, the Grow America Act, proposes to remove a federal prohibition and allow states to toll existing Interstate lanes.
An opposition group, however, calls the White House initiative “the worst possible approach” to raising money for the maintenance and expansion of the highway system.
“The idea has already been rejected by lawmakers, the public, and community leaders in the few states with a federal exception to the tolling prohibition,” said Julian Walker, spokesman for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates. “This plan would also let states redirect toll revenues to completely unrelated projects, abusing public trust and exploiting highway drivers with a tax on interstates to pay for trolleys, public transit, and unspecified environmental projects, all without solving the transportation funding problem.”
ATFI members include American Trucking Assns., the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., the Truckload Carriers Assn., and NATSO, along with numerous carriers and other transportation groups.