There's a legitimate reason for toll roads: Upkeep

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Chris Woodward (

toll plaza ahead signSome taxpayers may not be happy with one approach to the Trump administration's infrastructure plan, but one expert says it would provide a consistent revenue stream.

While he is concerned about cost and other things in the president's $1.5 trillion plan, Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute also sees positives. "There are a number of things in here that free-market fiscal conservatives should like, such as expanding states' authority to toll their own interstate segments," he says.

Oftentimes, taxpayers express frustration about having to pay to use an interstate highway that their tax dollars help to build. OneNewsNow asked Scribner about such concerns.

"Tolling can provide a consistent revenue stream that a lot of projects don't have," he answers. "So when people talk about [having] already paid for a road through their tax dollars, what they're generally talking about is they paid for the initial construction.


"But the majority of project costs occur after initial construction is complete," he continues. "So tolling can provide a way to keep those revenues flowing and allow for maintenance over time."

According to Scribner, a lot of the current problems with the nation's infrastructure are state and local infrastructure managers failing to maintain what they already have.

"And then if you're in an urban area, you may want to use dynamically priced tolling to mitigate congestion," he continues. "What we do know is that in many areas it simply isn't feasible to continually expand the number of highway lane miles to meet population growth. Instead, you need to put a price on the use of that – and that needs to vary by time of day so that you don't have people who aren't facing a charge, everyone rushing during the morning rush hour, to try to use the facility. That's what causes congestion.

"So we do know that pricing is really the only way to ensure that we're going to have uncongested roads while also providing that needed, ongoing, consistent revenue stream," Scribner concludes.

In recent years, other ideas to help pay for infrastructure projects have included increasing the federal gas tax. Revenue has been down in recent years, based on a number of factors, including more people using public transportation and/or driving fuel-efficient vehicles the government has been telling the auto industry to manufacture. Scribner says President Trump's plan doesn't mention the gas tax or any other pay-for.

Another approach is to establish a pay-per-mile tax, although that idea is still in a testing phase.

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