Could tolls be coming to Wyoming?
September 12, 2019
An interim panel at the Wyoming statehouse has voted to advance an effort to allow the state to seek federal authority to charge tolls on vehicles using Interstate 80.
The Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee voted 7-6 to move forward with plans to write legislation to help the state find the money needed for construction and maintenance of the heavily traveled east-west interstate.
Similar legislation has been considered at the statehouse in the past decade, but each effort has failed to gain support in both chambers.
The renewed effort would have the state Department of Transportation come up with a master plan to toll the 400-mile thoroughfare in southern Wyoming. The state would also need to come up with between $300,000 and $500,000 to pay for a study of the plan.
WyDOT officials say that something needs to be done to help the agency address the $40 million shortfall just to maintain the highway. Agency officials say I-80 also needs additional climbing lanes, more truck parking and the reconstruction of the interchange with I-25 in Cheyenne.
The Wyoming Trucking Association has testified against the bill. The group notes that carriers would use alternative routes to avoid tolls, and would cause businesses along I-80 to lose money.
Truckers in the state, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, add that professional drivers already pay multiple taxes and fees to access I-80 and other roadways.
Legislative critics of the plan say the state would be better served to form a task force to study all options to raise I-80 funds. Toll advocates at the statehouse say the idea has been studied enough, and it is time to take the next step.
Tolling the existing highway requires approval by federal authorities, as well as passage at the Wyoming statehouse and the governor’s signature.
Specific details of the toll plan, rates, or where tolls would be collected are not included. The master plan would determine the details.