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Old 10-17-2012, 09:10 AM   #1
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Interstate Toll Roads?

We're near the end of another long loop which took us through the east and mid west... so we've experienced frequent toll roads on Interstates. While I've been through this experience before, being a west coast native it's certainly not something I'm used to.

A few questions come to mind regarding how states come to turn interstate highways into toll roads.

1) I assume that states get federal money to maintain interstate highways. Are there no conditions placed on this money to keep the roads open to all travelers? Can states charge whatever they like to travel these roads, in addition to the federal taxes we pay?

2) What considerations do states take into account when deciding to charge tolls on interstates? Being from California where nearly everything is taxed and the state is drowning in red ink, there are no tolls on interstates.

Just curious.

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Old 10-17-2012, 09:25 AM   #2
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You ask good questions. I might do a Google search to see what I can learn. I'll pass along anything that might be interesting. I know what you mean re: tolls. We live in ne Canada and have to travel south through Maine to get anywhere. The tolls are frequent and expensive. We refer to Maine as being the "extortion" state. Also, when we travel to Mississippi for our southern winter stay, we try to avoid I-95 like the plague, since it's not only heavy traffic but loaded w/tolls. I guess the states don't have to call them taxes; they're user fees!
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Old 10-17-2012, 09:29 AM   #3
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Thanks for the thread , Rick. Looking forward to some of the answers.
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:14 AM   #4
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Here ya go!

TOLLS COLLECTION IS PROHIBITED on Interstate highways constructed with federal Interstate funds. Roads that were constructed first with state money and later signed as Interstates are exempt, however. This is why toll roads are much more common in the eastern states, which already had a highway system in place when the Interstate system was adopted.
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:23 AM   #5
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From what I understand there are several states that have applied to the federal govt. for permission to change the status of their interstates to toll roads. One of them is North Carolina. The voters in that state are going to vote on it next month to see if it will pass or not. The trucking industry and local business is fighting it.
Can you imagine I-95 as a toll road? Hope our Florida Sun-Pass will work there.

From what I have read the Federal Govt. has cut back on funding for the roads. And the states are taking in less money in taxes from gas and diesel due to vehicles getting better mileage. So that is the reason for making the interstate a toll road. Over-all, if the tolls actually go for the repair and upkeep of the road I wouldn't mind. But will it really work?
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:52 AM   #6
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Two of the earlier toll roads, the NY State Thruway and the PA Turnpike were constructed early on and I believe both were started or completed in the late 50's. The tolls in NY were supposed to be temporary but as with any tax, temporary only means during your lifetime. The Thruway has been paid off years ago but the tolls remain. To be honest with you, tolls don't bother me as long as the road is well maintained. It does bother me to be paying a toll on a washboard that is not fit for man or beast.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:14 AM   #7
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I'm not going to take a political position on the part of federal government. But the impact of a shrinking federal budget will force states, counties and municipalities to make hard decisions.

One of the methods to overcome reductions in fed funding will be these lower taxing authorities to decide what services they will provide. As it applies to highways that means the most likely target for funding will be the users themselves. Now, this doesn't negate the argument that all people benefit from a well planned and maintained road system. The mood of the nation doesn't seem to allow for a broad view of collateral gain. This tends to drive the focus of fiscal conservatives toward the bottom line at the expense of intrinsic values and hard to measure gains.

So, we are caught in the middle. Some of us are accustomed to having tollways and some of aren't. Some accept them as a way to localize budgets and others believe more in federal subsidies to maintain the road infrastructure. This sets up for a model where users will be faced with user fees/taxes and those that expect robust federal support will be offended the most. Of course, there are other models that could be considered but I think the model I lay out is a fair starting point. Of course there are other options such as counties allowing, and evening causing county roads to literally crumble or be converted to dirt/gravel surfaces because they can't do it all.

Keep in mind that the VAST majority of tax payers think like car drivers. They may understand the needs to support truck traffic but for the most part have little sympathy for RV owners. It isn't an totally illogical for them to say that large RVs should suffer the same tolls as big trucks. There will be little sympathy from this vast majority.

I think were the public will get hostile is if toll roads become more the norm but road conditions fail to improve. In metro areas toss in driving time as a measurement to be used for the general population to measure improvement.

HOWEVER...danger Will Robinson...rough roads ahead.

There will be unintended consequences if states start to run more toll roads and that will be on parallel highway/roads traffic. Tolls will cause folks to take these alternate routes and thus cause more and accelerated damage to roadways less capable of supporting increased traffic and loads. That will have another ripple affect on the budgets of smaller government entities.

In the end, the harder it becomes for the feds to deal with the deficit with available income, the more they will reduce expenditures for infrastructure maintenance/improvement on secondary highways and lower priority roads. This will be a vicious cycle that will be the gift that keeps giving.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:22 AM   #8
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Last year we drove I-95 in Maine. The toll was $7 for our motor home and toad. Wherever the money is going, it isn't going to highway repair. That was one of the roughest sections of freeway I've encountered anywhere.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:27 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by bdickson View Post
Last year we drove I-95 in Maine. The toll was $7 for our motor home and toad. Wherever the money is going, it isn't going to highway repair. That was one of the roughest sections of freeway I've encountered anywhere.
The question is whether states should plan on revenues and borrow or wait till cash in on hand? Also, have states established tolls based on expected federal support? If so, will tolls increase if fed assistance is reduced? One could even ask the question if there has already been some kind of reduction and the $7 toll doesn't provide the funds needed to bridge that gap.
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Old 10-17-2012, 12:02 PM   #10
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My state (Missouri) does not charge other states ie. (Kansas) for driving on I70, however Kansas charges me when I drive on I70 in their state. Somehow this just does not seem legal
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Old 10-17-2012, 02:41 PM   #11
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To throw another wrinkle in this discussion, Indiana 'leased' their tollroad to a private company, an Australian/Spanish joint-venture, for $3.8 billion for 75 years. Ohio has discussed doing the same sort of thing. Talk about outsourcing!

I just returned from Maine, at times I wasn't sure if I was paying a toll to drive in Maine, leave Maine, or enter New Hampshire.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:14 PM   #12
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To throw another wrinkle in this discussion, Indiana 'leased' their tollroad to a private company, an Australian/Spanish joint-venture, for $3.8 billion for 75 years. Ohio has discussed doing the same sort of thing. Talk about outsourcing!

I just returned from Maine, at times I wasn't sure if I was paying a toll to drive in Maine, leave Maine, or enter New Hampshire.
There is a toll road around Toronto which I believe is owned by the same company. Most people who use it look upon it positively.

The issue of one road being toll while the same road in the adjoining state is not a toll road has been brought up. When you leave a non-toll state like Missouri and go into Kansas you are not paying any taxes to Kansas unless you fuel up in the state. The toll you pay in Kansas is a use tax. If you do not wish to pay that use tax, then the option is to use a different road on which there is no toll.

I personally agree with toll roads because they are a fair way to tax. You use it, then you pay for it. You don't use it, then don't pay for it. It is fairly simple. I don't expect everyone to agree with my assessment, but interstate highways are not paid for 100% with federal funds. Tolls help each state to pay for their share of the highway construction. The maintenance of those roads and the upkeep is pretty much up to the states to fund and tolls help to perform that service.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:26 PM   #13
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I personally agree with toll roads because they are a fair way to tax. You use it, then you pay for it. You don't use it, then don't pay for it.
I agree with you, it can be a good way to improve highways and build roads that are needed. Across Indiana (and Ohio), if you don't want to pay the toll you could drop south and cross E-W on US 30, more interesting and historic than the tollroad.

If I had to use tollroads more regularly I would probably invest in EZ pass or one of the similar systems to speed the transaction at the booth.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:39 PM   #14
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I agree with you, it can be a good way to improve highways and build roads that are needed. Across Indiana (and Ohio), if you don't want to pay the toll you could drop south and cross E-W on US 30, more interesting and historic than the tollroad.

If I had to use tollroads more regularly I would probably invest in EZ pass or one of the similar systems to speed the transaction at the booth.

Some states, such as NY, give you a discount for using the EZ Pass. I use it a lot on all of my vehicles and it saves time and money.

Ed
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