Wyoming bill would greenlight I-80 tolls
December 26, 2019
Concern in Wyoming about how to cover costs for improvements to Interstate 80 in the state has resulted in a legislative proposal to tap tolls.
The Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee has filed the bill for consideration during the upcoming regular session. The panel voted 7-6 this fall to move forward with plans to help the state find the money needed for construction and maintenance of the heavily traveled east-west interstate.
Similar I-80 toll legislation has been considered at the statehouse in the past decade, but each effort has failed to gain support in both chambers.
The renewed I-80 toll effort would have the state Department of Transportation come up with a master plan to toll the 400-mile thoroughfare in southern Wyoming. According to a fiscal note attached to the bill, the agency would need to come up with between $1 million and $1.25 million to develop a master plan.
“The tolled configuration will allow interstate 80 to be maintained and to be operated in a way that will reduce traffic congestion, delays, hazards, injuries and fatalities,” the bill reads.
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 its interchange with I-25 in Cheyenne.
The Wyoming Trucking Association has testified against the I-80 toll effort. The group noted 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 I-80 toll 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.
Next steps for I-80 toll plan
Tolling the existing highway is a multiple-step process. The Wyoming Legislature must first act to authorize tolls in the state. Secondly, the governor would need to sign off on the plan. Finally, the federal government must grant the state permission to charge tolls on vehicles using I-80.
Specific details of the I-80 toll plan, rates, or where tolls would be collected are not included in the bill. The master plan would determine the details.
The legislation, SF6, can be considered during the regular session that begins Feb. 10.