Wyoming bill would toll Interstate 80 reintroduced
February 11, 2021
Renewed pursuit at the Wyoming statehouse calls for tapping tolls to cover costs for improvements to Interstate 80 in the state.
The same legislative effort was offered during the 2020 regular session. Senators voted 18-11 against introduction of the bill on the second day of last year’s session. This year’s attempt to consider tolls on the heavily traveled east-west interstate has advanced to the Senate Transportation Committee.
Officials with the Wyoming Department of Transportation 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.
Similar legislation has been considered at the statehouse in the past decade, but each effort has failed to gain support in both chambers.
This year’s effort, SF73, calls for the state Department of Transportation to 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 $1 million to $1.25 million to develop a master plan to toll Interstate 80.
“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.
Specific details of the toll plan, rates, or where tolls would be collected are not included in the bill. The master plan would determine the details.
Truckers opposed to plan
The Wyoming Trucking Association has testified against the tolling 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, have added that professional drivers already pay multiple taxes and fees to access I-80 and other roadways.
“To be clear, OOIDA fundamentally opposes toll roads,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer wrote in previous communication with state lawmakers. “However, toll roads are more egregious when they are proposed for existing highway capacity.”
Spencer urged legislators to come up with a more practical solution to secure additional revenue for roads and bridges.
“At 24 cents per gallon, Wyoming’s state fuel tax is among the lowest in the nation. A modest increase in the state fuel tax is a more appropriate, cost-effective, and equitable solution.”
Fuel tax increase considered
Focus on transportation funding at the statehouse is not limited to tolls.
One option being pursued in the Wyoming House would raise fuel taxes.
The state’s current tax rate of 24 cents per gallon is unchanged since 2013.
HB26 would increase the tax on gas and diesel by 9 cents to 33 cents per gallon. The tax on alternative fuels would be raised by the same amount.
WyDOT reports $135.6 million in unfunded operating expenses. The amount includes $72.3 million in construction and maintenance.
The bill would raise an estimated $60.3 million annually for state and local roads, according to information provided by the agency.
Road user charge
One more option being considered in the House would introduce a pay-by-mile system or road user charge.
HB37 calls for fuel tax collection to begin to be phased out in favor of a road user charge in March 2022.
Motorists would pay 2.15 cents per mile traveled on Wyoming roadways. Depending on the size of the truck, professional drivers would pay from 10.32 cents to 14.35 cents per mile.
Over time, the fuel tax would be indexed to maintain alignment with road use charges.
Residents paying the road user charge would get a credit for fuel taxes paid. Out-of-state drivers would pay both the road user charge and the state’s fuel tax.
The Wyoming Legislative Service Office estimates once the road user charge is fully implemented it would result in net revenue of $123.6 million per year. LL
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