A dozen statehouses consider bills regarding toll collection
January 30, 2019
As the feds continue to discuss an infrastructure plan to benefit roads, bridges and transit throughout the nation, state lawmakers are pursuing efforts to raise revenue on their own via toll taxes. At the same time, some legislators want to restrict or prohibit toll collection.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable way for states to generate additional revenue.
A Senate bill would put in place a restriction on toll roads in the state.
Specifically, SB1126 would prohibit the state from entering into an agreement that would authorize converting an existing highway into a toll road.
The bill has been assigned to multiple Senate committees for discussion.
One state lawmaker wants to end Connecticut’s distinction as the lone New England state without any kind of toll collection program. Gov. Ned Lamont also wants to change that.
The new Democratic governor said a truck-only toll is one option the state should pursue to help cover expenses for needed transportation work.
Lamont added that charging out-of-state truckers to access Connecticut roadways could raise a quarter of a billion dollars annually. He said collecting more money from professional drivers is a better option to fund transportation work than increasing fuel taxes for all drivers, or borrowing.
First-term Sen. Alexandra Bergstein, D-Greenwich, wants to do more than simply toll trucks. She proposes legislation, SB102, to establish electronic toll collection on major highways for all users.
A related bill, SB99, from Bergstein calls for studying the conversion of on lane on Interstate 95 to a high-occupancy vehicle lane, or express lane.
Attempts in recent years to authorize tolls in Connecticut have fallen flat due to opposition from Republicans who have been the majority party in the state’s Senate. Following the 2018 elections the GOP no longer has enough legislators in the upper chamber to block passage of toll collection plans.
Leaders in the minority party say the state would be better served to forgo toll options and instead use existing borrowing to improve roads and public transportation. However, there has been talk in recent weeks that Republican lawmakers may be willing to support toll collection as long as there is an accompanying reduction in the state’s fuel tax rates.
The state now collects 36.85 cents per gallon on gas and 43.9 cents on diesel.
An effort to raise road revenue is focused on tolls.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he supports legislative efforts to address a $13 billion backlog of transportation needs.
In recent years there has been some pursuit at the statehouse for a fuel tax increase, but the idea has not taken hold among legislators. Other options are expected to be considered in the upcoming regular session.
Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said he supports use of public-private partnerships to get road projects done.
Democratic lawmakers are taking steps to block a plan from Gov. Larry Hogan to expand and potentially add toll lanes to Interstates 270 and 495.
The Republican governor has a $9 billion plan to use the state’s six-year-old public-private partnership authorization to add new express toll lanes, in addition to existing lanes, on the highways.
Montgomery County Delegates Marc Korman and Alfred Carr have introduced a bill, HB91, to require an environmental impact study to be completed before the state DOT solicits private contractors to work on the highway system expansion.
Transportation Director Pete Rahn has said numerous studies have already occurred over the years.
A separate bill, HB102, from Delegate Brooke Lierman, D-Baltimore City, would prohibit construction of roadway expansion, toll lanes and bridges without approval of affected counties.
Republican Anne Arundel County Delegate Michael Malone and Sen. Edward Reilly have similar bills, HB212 and SB107, to prohibit the construction of a toll road or bridge in Anne Arundel County without the consent of county officials.
Delegate Vaughn Stewart, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Baltimore, have one more effort – HB277 and SB249 – to require a comprehensive study of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution related to state-funded highway projects or projects through a public-private partnership.
Two bills under consideration would open the door to toll projects in the state.
Sponsored by Rep. Randall Patterson, R-Biloxi, HB1060 would authorize public-private partnerships in the state.
A bill from Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, HB887 would authorize privatization deals for roads and bridges, and include naming rights.
The bills are in committee.
One effort underway at the statehouse would collect more revenue for transportation.
Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Messenger, R-Greene, HJR15 proposes an amendment to the state’s Constitution to authorize the construction and operation of toll roads. Tolls could be collected at the entrances of interstates or four-lane roadways.
The federal government must authorize the toll project.
A House bill would establish a commission to evaluate whether toll collection on the state’s turnpike system is cost effective.
Sponsored by Rockingham Republican Reps. Max Abramson and Al Baldasaro, HB515 would include consideration of “unintended costs,” such as congestion on other roads caused by toll avoidance, reduced retail sales in towns and cities near toll booths, and increased wear and tear on vehicles due to increased congestion.
The bill is in the House Public Works and Highways Committee.
Road revenue in South Carolina is on the rise. However, it is not enough to address the state’s overall transportation funding needs.
A 2017 state law increased the then-16.75-cent fuel tax rate. Specifically, the tax rate will increase by 2-cent increments over six years to benefit the state’s roads and bridges. When fully implemented, the additional 12 cents in tax revenue is estimated to raise $630 million per year.
In an effort to further reduce the remaining transportation funding gap, estimated at $370 million, is a bill to authorize putting toll booths on a portion of Interstate 95. The toll collection revenue would be used to pay for road widening and repairs.
Sens. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon, and Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, are behind a bill to require the state Department of Transportation to charge highway users to access I-95 where it crosses Lake Marion in either Orangeburg County or Clarendon County.
The bill, S178, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the legislative effort. The truckers group says the toll collection location would effectively prevent diversion because going around the lake would be “impractical.”
“The proposed toll collection location is clearly intended to target through traffic, which will undoubtedly have a disproportionate impact on commercial trucks,” said OOIDA Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek. “This is simply wrong.”
Multiple bills introduced at the statehouse cover toll collection cessation and alternate routes.
The first bill, HB436, would remove tolls from highways once the costs of acquisition and construction of the project have been paid. At that time, the affected roadway would become a part of the state highway system.
A similar bill, HB505, would also prohibit a toll project entity from amending a financing or other agreement to delay transference of the road to the state highway system. A public vote could be held to decide whether to extend the toll cessation date by five years.
The third bill, HB506, would mandate that any tolling authority looking to construct a toll route must add at least one adjacent nontolled lane of frontage road along a previously nontolled highway.
One legislative effort getting a lot of attention at the statehouse would create truck-only tolls on Interstate 81.
Toll revenue would pay for improvements along I-81 and other roads in the corridor.
OOIDA calls the legislation “punitive against truckers.”
Association President Todd Spencer adds that it is possible the bills, HB2718 and SB1716, violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for additional Land Line coverage on this legislation.
Separately, a House and Senate bill would each add tolls for all users to Interstate 81.
Toll rates for motorists along the 325-mile stretch from Bristol to Winchester would be set at up to 11 cents per mile while large trucks would be charged up to 17 cents per mile.
An estimated $145 million would be raised annually, according to a fiscal impact statement.
HB2718 and SB1716 specify that toll revenue would be used for work along the I-81 corridor.
In addition to toll pursuits for I-81, one House bill covers toll collection on I-66 inside the Beltway.
HB2643 would limit tolls to $15 on the tolled portion of I-66 east of mile marker 67. The limitation would be expanded to the tolled portion east of mile marker 43 once the eastbound widening project is complete.
Separate efforts in both statehouse chambers would set long-term rate increases along the privately owned and operated Dulles Greenway. In exchange for locking in long-term rates on the Northern Virginia route, HB2667 and SB1133 would implement limited distance-based tolling.
Distance-based rates would be set at 95 cents (HB2667) and $1 (SB1133) during nonpeak hours.
Annual toll rate increases were implemented in 2013 and are set to expire in 2020.
Two related bills would also permit distance-based tolling on the Dulles Greenway, but additional regulations are included.
Specifically, HB2799 and SB1654 would require the State Corporation Commission to investigate the Dulles Greenway to confirm that toll rates “are established in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner.” Additionally, the operator would be prohibited from seeking a toll increase above “the reasonable level.”
One more bill, HB2527, would prohibit toll collection in Northern Virginia along any primary, secondary, or urban highway.
A Senate bill would place restrictions on toll collection.
Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, says the protection would “block Seattle’s plan to impose tolls on downtown streets.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is having the city look into collecting tolls in the downtown area. According to local reports, a total of $1.2 million has been dedicated in the last two city budgets to pursue toll collection to reduce congestion and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
SB5104 would prohibit cities, counties and other local governments from imposing tolls. It would establish that tolls can only be imposed by the Legislature.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing today in the Senate Transportation Committee.
One state lawmaker wants to rid the state of toll collection.
On Jan. 15, toll rates doubled for all vehicles on the West Virginia Turnpike.
Gov. Jim Justice said the increase would permit the West Virginia Parkways Authority to sell an initial installment of $172 million in bonds. He added that it will provide funding for road and bridge improvements in 10 southern West Virginia counties.
As recently as 2013, debts related to construction projects were set to be paid off in 2020. Initial construction of the 88-mile turnpike began in 1952.
Delegate Joe Jeffries, R-Putnam, has introduced a bill to end toll collection on the turnpike as of July 1, 2019.
HB2629 is in multiple House committees.