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 Post subject: Tolls contemplated to fund Interstate Freeways
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:48 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 1:29 pm
Posts: 630
But for specious tax cuts subsidizing the profit margins of corporate America and the 1%ers, this matter isnt even at issue. To now clamor for tolls on Interstate freeways is nothing other than a further confiscatory shifting/redistribution of tax burdens in the form of user fees. The next move is dividing up and privatizing the Interstate.


Agreement on Interstate Repair Needs, but Not on How to Pay for Them

Toll companies say tolls are the most sensible solution for financing infrastructure repairs.

WASHINGTON — The debate over repairs to the nation’s federal highways could be simplified as this: Will improved Interstates force people into bypassing their Big Macs?

There is not much disagreement on the need to fill the yawning potholes, strengthen the deteriorating bridge supports or repave vast stretches of the federally maintained road system. The fight is over how those extensive, and expensive, fixes would be financed. And the Highway Trust Fund, which usually shoulders such costs, is teetering on bankruptcy.

Lawmakers and some business groups are pushing to lift the ban on new tolls along existing Interstate highways, a move that would provide additional revenue for road maintenance and repair.

But a coalition of some of the nation’s biggest companies, including FedEx and McDonald’s, are fighting to keep the Interstates as toll-free as possible. They argue that tolls would add significantly to the expense of moving their goods across the country.

There is also a hidden cost, they say, for restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations and other businesses that depend on Interstate highway traffic. The tolls could cost them customers as travelers choose other routes.

“People aren’t going to stop at a McDonald’s or a hotel if they have to get off the Interstate and pay a toll, then pay a toll to get back on,” said Jay B. Perron, vice president of government affairs for the International Franchisee Association, which is part of the toll opposition. “It’s a significant economic hit for these businesses, if people chose to avoid them because of tolls.”

On the other side is the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, a group that represents toll companies and their vendors. It says adding tolls to highways that do not have them and increasing tolls that are already in place are the most sensible solutions for financing repairs to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.

“Tolling is a proven, effective funding and financing method that works,” said Patrick D. Jones, the association’s executive director. “We’re not saying every state needs to set up tolls, just give them the flexibility to do so when it makes sense.”

The fight is being waged as Congress prepares to rewrite the surface transportation bill, which expires Oct. 1. Highway construction and repair projects are typically paid for by the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by a gasoline tax that has for decades been the chief source of revenue in the construction of American highways.

The tax, which is set at 18.4 cents per gallon, is not indexed to inflation and has not been raised since 1993. In addition, the rise of hybrid vehicles and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks has caused the tax revenues to fall. The Highway Trust Fund will be bankrupt next year unless Congress acts, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The pro-toll effort has the support of many state and local transportation officials. They argue that local officials, who can raise their own fuel and sales taxes, cannot come up with the trillions of dollars needed to repair, or in some cases rebuild, sections of the federal Interstate System.

“If Congress is not going to sufficiently fund transportation, and there is no appetite to increase the gas tax, we have to have the ability to add tolls,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, co-chairman of the Building America’s Future Educational Fund, a bipartisan group that is intended to address transportation issues.

The opponents, under an umbrella group called the Alliance for a Toll-Free Interstate, include the American Trucking Association, UPS, FedEx, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. The companies say that adding tolls would cause drivers to be taxed twice for driving on the same road — once in paying federal gasoline taxes and again by tolls.

And they argue that the new tolls could hurt states that would have to pay for repairs on secondary roads that would deteriorate faster if enough drivers used them as alternatives. By law, money from the Highway Trust Fund cannot be used for state roads.

“Tolling existing Interstate lanes is the least efficient, least effective mechanism to fund transportation in the long term,” said Hayes Framme, a spokesman for the alliance.

Congress banned tolls on Interstate highways in 1956 when it created the national system under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Some Northeast states, like Delaware, were allowed to keep tolls on existing highways that became a part of the national system. Other states were allowed to create tolls on new highways and on lanes added to existing Interstates, but that revenue can be used only for repair and maintenance of those roads.

Congress created a pilot project in 1998 that allowed Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia to add new tolls, but efforts in those states have run into political opposition.

Last year, the North Carolina House voted unanimously to ban new tolls on any existing Interstate highway, which ended the state’s plan to add tolls on the parts of Interstate 95 that run through eight counties in the state. Gov. Pat McCrory also opposed the tolls.

A proposal in Virginia to add tolls to parts of I-95 was also killed by legislators. And a similar proposal in Missouri to add tolls on I-70 between St. Louis and Kansas City also failed to advance in the Legislature.

Still, despite the setback in states, toll supporters say the continuing deterioration of roads is forcing members of Congress to reconsider the bans.

Mr. Framme, from the antitolling group, said it had urged Congress to increase the gasoline tax, rather than add tolls, to finance transportation projects because the overhead costs are far lower, although toll supporters disagree.

“Tolling is not this painless option that proponents say it is,” Mr. Framme said. “This misguided, knee-jerk response would cost fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses along Interstate routes billions.”


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