A recent editorial in Forbes mischaracterized the effects of tolling when it called for a broad endorsement of the Obama Administration’s proposal to lift the ban on tolling existing interstates.
In a column titled, “Interstates Aren’t Free So Let’s Lift the Ban on Tolling Them,” guest contributor Scott Beyer said expanded tolling would “let states finally explore an option that could ease congestion and increase revenue, while better enabling local autonomy.” Beyer further added that Congress should give bipartisan support to a plan that would “generate interstate revenue more equitably than the existing approach.”
Beyer fails to mention that tolls represent an inefficient and wasteful way to tax drivers. Tolls cost 20 to 30 cents of every dollar to collect and administer. Administering the federal motor fuel tax, by comparison, costs less than a penny per dollar. And under the President’s plan, some of the tolls paid by drivers will be diverted to projects unrelated to the toll road, further diminishing the amount of funding directed to the interstate highway system.
Furthermore, studies show that when tolls are implemented, one-third of drivers will divert onto secondary roads, increasing congestion, accidents and creating new costs for local governments in dealing with increased traffic on roads not designed to handle it.
Beyer recognizes that states have had the ability to toll existing infrastructure under the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program. But he fails to acknowledge that in the 15 years since its inception, not a single state has implemented it due to strong public opposition.
The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, of which NATSO is a founding member, is submitting a response.
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