Several states considering tolls to increase funding
As infrastructure funding is running low, at least three states are looking into tolls as a funding mechanism.
With a federal infrastructure bill still in limbo, wells are running dry for many state transportation departments. To pay for road maintenance and projects, several states are looking at tolls as a possible solution.
On Dec. 21, Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board published its final report of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan. In order to pay for more than $2 billion worth of projects, the board recommended either a regional tax or implementing tolls on all vehicles.
Last April, the Virginia General Assembly passed Chapter 743 of the 2018 Virginia Acts, which directs the Commonwealth Transportation Board to study financing options for Interstate 81 corridor improvements. Within the directions, the board can consider “tolls imposed or collected on heavy commercial vehicles but shall not include tolls on commuters using Interstate 81,” leaving some speculation that a truck-only toll could be installed in Virginia.
The board identified four possible tolling options:
- Trucks only.
- Trucks and noncommuters.
- Variable tolling between daytime and nighttime for trucks and noncommuters.
- Variable tolling with an annual pass.
“Of these four tolling options, options 2 through 4 best meet public input, federal and state tolling parameters, and generate sufficient revenue to meet the $2.2 billion needs,” the board determined.
Although Virginia’s General Assembly can consider a truck-only toll, the board recommended a more inclusive toll option.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation released a report that proposes all-electronic tolls on all vehicle types, which could raise nearly $1 billion each year. The DOT study is separate from the $10 million study commissioned by then-Gov. Dannel Malloy. Gov. Ned Lamont campaigned last year on tolling only heavy vehicles.
If CTDOT’s report is adopted by lawmakers, trucks will be tolled four times the rate of passenger vehicles. Accounting for tolls on other vehicles, the CTDOT study calculates truck tolls at 17.6 cents per mile for Connecticut E-ZPass truckers and 25.2 cents for out-of-state E-ZPass users during off-peak hours. During peak hours, the rate increases to 22 cents per mile for Connecticut truckers and 31.6 cents for out-of-state E-ZPass truckers.
Truckers driving without an E-ZPass but having pre-registered plates will pay 31.6 cents per mile during off-peak hours and 39.6 cents per mile during peak periods. Heavy truck drivers with unregistered plates will pony up 37.6 cents per mile during off-peak hours and 47.2 cents during peak periods.
According to the report, based on a more inclusive toll on motorists the statewide tolling system presented would yield $950 million in annual net revenue in 2023 while including some of the lowest toll rates in the country.
Although Indiana implemented a truck-only toll in October, there is some good news regarding tolls coming out of the Hoosier State: Gov. Eric Holcomb has decided not to move forward with additional tolls.
On Nov. 29, Gov. Holcomb issued a letter to the state Budget Committee regarding tolls. Mandated by HB1002, the governor advised the committee that enough money is available to avoid any new tolls. Holcomb then issued a strategic interstate tolling plan for future consideration.
“The Strategic Plan does not make a recommendation about implementation of a statewide interstate tolling program,” the Indiana Department of Transportation wrote to Holcomb. “It provides a series of strategies for how INDOT could implement a statewide interstate tolling program if Indiana decides to proceed.” (Emphasis is INDOT’s.)
Motorists can thank truckers, in part, for the decision. According to the letter, in addition to a fuel tax increase implemented last year, Holcomb also mentioned how the recent Next Level Connections agreement – aka truck-only tolls – has injected $800 million more for road projects. Essentially, the state has enough money for road projects in the foreseeable future.
“As you well know, the decisions made by the General Assembly in 2017 have put Indiana in an enviable position,” Holcomb wrote. “We are at the beginning of a road construction blitz.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Indiana challenging the truck-only tolls on Jan. 9. (Read more on Page 35.) LL