Wyoming Senate advances proposal for I-80 tolls
March 23, 2021
A bill halfway through the Wyoming Legislature would move forward with plans to add tolls along Interstate 80 in the state.
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 its interchange with I-25 in Cheyenne.
Pursuit of tolls at the statehouse has been a regular occurrence over the past decade. Each previous attempt has failed to gain support in both chambers in the same year.
The Senate has voted to advance this year’s effort to House lawmakers for further consideration.
Master plan for tolls
The bill, SF73, calls for the state DOT 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 as much as $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.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told the Senate Appropriations Committee the toll option would give the state “a sustainable revenue source for the future.” He added that highways throughout the state would benefit.
“If we are successful in implementing a tolling structure on Interstate 80, it will free up massive amounts of funds that are currently going into I-80 for other highways in the state.”
Specific details of the toll plan, rates, or where I-80 tolls would be collected are not included in the bill. The master plan would determine the details.
The bill has moved to the House Transportation Committee.
The Wyoming Trucking Association has testified against the tolling effort. 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 roadways that include I-80.
OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer has communicated to Wyoming lawmakers the Association is fundamentally opposed to toll roads. He added that “toll roads are more egregious when they are proposed for existing highway capacity.”
Spencer has urged legislators to come up with a more practical solution to secure additional revenue for roads and bridges.
He pointed out the state’s 24-cent-per-gallon 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.”
Lawmaker questions trucking claims
Case indicated he has heard complaints from truckers about the tolling pursuit. He told lawmakers he is not buying claims that professional drivers will opt to avoid travel in the state when possible.
“We often hear that truckers will go down to I-70. I tell you what, you would have to pay me a lot of money to drive an 18-wheeler through Denver and put up with ski traffic, and be way off your mark when you get to the other side,” Case said. “I just don’t think that’s realistic at the level of tolls that are being contemplated.”
He added that WYDOT has mentioned that truck tolls could be set at 25 cents per mile. LL
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