‘Report’ Distorts and Exaggerates Utility of Tolls for Highway Finance
A recently issued “report” on how useful tolls could be to funding infrastructure investments understates the public opposition to tolling and plays down safety and other risks of increased tolling, American Trucking Associations officials said.
“Despite what toll advocates and financiers try and tell the public, tolling existing interstates is a wildly unpopular concept,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Voters and lawmakers in Virginia and North Carolina have demonstrated this vividly in recent months – the public continues to see tolls as an intrusive and inefficient tax.”
ATA highlighted several faulty assumptions in the report:
- It assumes 5% collection costs for the entire system based on a study of four existing urban toll roads. The vast majority of the Interstate system is rural and therefore has lower volumes, so collection costs are bound to be much higher on average.
- The report claims motorists prefer tolls to higher fuel taxes, based on surveys asking about tolls only on newly built lanes, not on existing Interstates.
- Despite having the authority to toll existing Interstates since 1991, no state has done so (other than HOV lanes) due to public opposition. It’s preposterous to assume that the public would ever accept tolls on the entire system when states can’t get them to go along with tolling even a single highway.
- It projects diversion rates off the Interstate system of 10% for cars and 20% for trucks, yet fails to look at the additional infrastructure, safety, congestion and air quality impacts.
“We know our infrastructure needs are great, but we can’t be wooed by the siren song of alleged ‘tax-free’ funding,” said ATA First Vice Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express, Charleston, S.C. “Tolls are just another name for a tax, one that provides quite a lot of money for government bureaucrats and Wall Street financiers, and is an extremely expensive way to fund highway improvements. We should instead focus on the reliable, traditional financing methods – such as the fuel tax – that built our great Interstate system to improve and maintain that system. Our leaders simply need to have the political will to do the right thing regarding these methods.”