America Prefers Tolls for Road Funding

Tom Warne Report, 14 May 2013
(PRWEB) – April 30, 2013
Kansas City, Missouri – The gas tax seems to be running on fumes at a time when the nation’s aging infrastructure is in need of a fuel injection. A recent America THINKS survey from HNTB Corporation shows that millions of Americans are aware there is a congestion problem, and many are willing to back tolls that enhance, repair or construct roads. With these fees, however, come higher expectations for the facilities, including better driving conditions and cleanliness.

“As our nation’s population continues to grow, so will its traffic troubles if we don’t address the long-term decline of the gas tax,” said Jim Ely, HNTB vice chair toll services. The confluence of shrinking traditional transportation funding, increasing congestion and advancements in tolling technology is opening up vast opportunities for market-driven and choice-based user financed transportation.”

In fact, more than 3 in 5 (63 percent) of Americans feel the nation can no longer build its way out of traffic congestion. And more than 7 in 10 (71 percent) drivers would be willing to pay a higher toll fare on a road or highway in order to save travel time. And, when presented with a choice between tolls and other forms of transportation funding, such as higher gas taxes, property and sales taxes over the next 10 years, more than 4 in 10 (43 percent) Americans would be most willing to back more tolls rather than these other forms of additional funding to maintain existing roads, bridges and tunnels in their area, as well as build new ones.

Among the nation’s drivers, more than 8 in 10 (86 percent) are willing to pay tolls. With that price of admission comes an expectation of better driving conditions. In fact, more than 9 in 10 Americans (93 percent) expect tolled roads to be better than non-tolled roads.

Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) believe their state department of transportation should have the option to add tolls to major structures to keep them in good shape. In addition, 8 in 10 Americans (80 percent) agree their state department of transportation should have the option to enter into agreements with private companies and investors to provide additional long-term funding to build, expand, operate and maintain needed roads, bridges and tunnels. Ely said there will need to be enabling legislation created in many states as well as additional changes at the federal level for tolling and public-private partnerships to grow to the extent needed.

This is very interesting information and worth noting. Such public predispositions cannot be ignored. HNTB did us all a service here. That said, the numbers at the general or high level often belie the true feelings of people when it comes to personal choices. We see this in the overall dismal ratings of Congress but people generally like their member. People like tolls but you continue to have lawsuits and legislation that attempt to prevent their imposition such as what is happening in Norfolk and Missouri. I recall when we polled people about their support of transit during the I-15 project in 1997 that there was overwhelming support at 75% or so for transit during construction. However, when asked if they would actually use it only 5% said they would. They supported transit for the “other guy” so that they could have free use of the restricted lanes on I-15 during construction. It goes along with the Yogi Bera quote, “The only difference between theory and practice is practice.” The difference between any funding mechanism in theory and me paying the bill is how I feel about paying the bill. Another point worth noting: The former Chairman of the Utah State Transportation Commission, Glen Brown (who was also a former Speaker of the Utah House) said to me once, “It’s always easier to tax the man you don’t know.” TW

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