In polling recently conducted here at OverdriveOnline.com, just a third of readers favored any liberalization whatsoever in the ability of government to toll interstate routes, whether current or new routes or expansion lanes. Tony Besase, commenting at OverdriveOnline.com, summed up opposition to the idea, noting tolls are “nothing but a ripoff. We pay enough fuel tax.”
Tolls on the interstate highway system: Should they be allowed?
The polling followed the January leak of a priorities outline reportedly from the Trump administration relative to its infrastructure bill preferences. As expected given past reporting on the administration’s private-funding-growth ideas around infrastructure financing, in that outline is a nugget that is something of a bugaboo for longtime truckers. If Congress were to take it up, it would “allow states flexibility to toll on interstates and reinvest toll revenues in infrastructure.”
What does that mean? By various accounts, it looks like the ban on tolling existing interstate lanes (except in some special cases) could be on the chopping block. There’s plenty opposition to such a measure emerging among both truckers and the motoring public.
“Casinos, Powerball, tolls, all because no one knows how to balance the budget anymore,” says William J. Wood, commenting at OverdriveOnline.com. “Taxes were supposed to cover our government needs to run this country. Where will we draw the line?”
Most truckers hope the line will separate current fuels-taxes funding of roads from “flexibility” for states to privatize or otherwise toll the existing interstate system, providing potential cash cows for investors over longer terms — and states themselves in the short-term.
As shown in the results above, two-thirds of readers answered the question of whether to allow tolling on the interstate highway system beyond what is currently allowed with a categorical no.
Mandated e-logs were bad enough by themselves, noted Samuel DeWalt. He believes they could also easily represent a “Pandora’s Box” of sorts, to “open the door to monitoring your personal drive time to work [toward] tolls on new and existing roads. … Push back. Let the politicians know that since they ignore their constituents for corporations, we will forget them for reelection.”
For all of President Trump’s gusto at reversing the policies of his predecessor, when it comes to road financing, the current administration is singing a somewhat familiar tune. Obama’s DOT wanted to do away with the prohibition on tolls on existing interstates, too, regular readers may recall. They were unsuccessful.
The opposition to the move was as robust then as it is now. During that time, the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates was formed, claiming among its members several carriers as well as large organizations like the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
Upon news of the leaked infrastructure-bill outline, ATFI issued a statement that in part echoed the principal thoughts of many of a highway hauler. “Tolls are simply a new tax,” ATFI said. “They are wildly inefficient, sacrificing money that could go toward construction instead going to corporate profits and administrative costs.”
Dave Roozenboom, commenting under the poll, put forward another concern shared by ATFI. “Any tolls will force trucks on to the two-lane roads, further congesting them and slowing deliveries!” And, ATFI is quick to note, causing more safety issues than they could ever solve.