The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates sharply criticized the Indiana Department of Transportation Nov. 3 for issuing a Tolling Feasibility Study that presented a misleading and unrealistic outlook for Indiana’s potential use of tolls.
IDOT on Nov. 1 issued a feasibility study that claimed the state could raise up to $53 billion by tolling six major Interstates. However the study, which was ordered by the Indiana General Assembly, makes estimates that assume federal approval for tolling programs and touts inflated revenue projections that exclude hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for construction, collection, enforcement and insurance of toll gantries.
Furthermore, the economic impacts calculated for a potential statewide tolling program fails to account for the loss of business and opportunity costs of higher transportation costs, and ignores the cost of traffic diversion around communities where tolls would be located. The study assumes that up to 22 percent of traffic will divert off of the toll roads, which means more crashes, congestion on local roads, higher maintenance costs, delayed first responders and other harmful consequences for these communities.
“Overall the study paints an unrealistically rosy picture of the revenues tolls could bring to Indiana, ultimately increasing the risks of new toll roads in Indiana,” said ATFI spokeswoman Stephanie Kane. “Tolling studies overpromise and underperform nearly always.”
NATSO, which is a founding member of ATFI, strongly opposes the tolling of existing Interstates because they double tax motorists who already pay for infrastructure through the motor fuels tax each time they fill up at the pump. Tolls also harm businesses that operate at the exit interchanges because they lose customers and must charge more for the goods that are delivered by truck. Local communities suffer as traffic diverts onto secondary roads not designed to handle the high traffic volumes of the Interstate.
Indiana already is home to the bankrupt Indiana toll road.
The Indiana Toll Road Concession Company paid $3.8 billion in 2006 -- in a deal that included Cintra, a Spanish highway builder, and Australia’s Macquarie Bank -- for a 75-year lease from the Indiana Finance Authority under which it agreed to operate, maintain and make improvements to the road in exchange for the right to collect tolls. The operators of the Indiana Toll Road later filed for bankruptcy to get out from under $6 billion in debt after traffic volumes on the toll road were lower than expected.
Indiana House Bill 1002 directed the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to study the feasibility of tolling Indiana’s Interstates and prepare a report that summarizes the results. The original version of H.B. 1002 contained explicit permission for the state to toll. However, amid strong opposition from NATSO, the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, and other like-minded businesses and Indiana residents, the final legislation directed the IDOT to further study tolling before the legislature reaches a final decision on whether tolling is in the best interest of the state.
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