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States Turning to Tolls

Several states are turning to tolls to help pay for transportation projects.

March 23, 2018

Several states are turning to tolls to help pay for transportation projects.

Pennsylvania

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Motorists Association are suing the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission claiming the trucking industry has been collectively overcharged by $6 billion. They want a refund.

At issue are tolls paid to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, ostensibly to be used to maintain that roadway. The suit alleges that funds are instead being diverted as required payments to PennDot, a result of a 2007 law that makes the turnpike pay $450 million a year to PennDot until FY 2022. As stipulated in Act 44, none of the payments are dedicated to highways and bridges. Instead, all $450 million is allocated to support transit capital, operating, multimodal, and other non-highway programs. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2023, the annual payment obligations decreases to $50 million until the payment obligations end in 2057.

The original plan was to allow the turnpike to toll a span of Interstate 80 to generate the needed revenue.

But because interstates currently cannot be tolled, Pennsylvania had to seek permission to toll I-80. Despite multiple request, Washington, D.C. rejected those requests.

None the less, the turnpike has been obligated to pay its $450 million a year to PennDot, which has lead to private and commercial motorists to foot the bill by paying ever-increasing turnpike tolls.

The Meadville Tribune says the trucking associations have taken up the cause, saying they have been overcharged for years and want Act 44 changed. Although there is no group to advocate for passenger cars, if the suit is successful private motorists will also benefit. Read more about the suit in the Meadville Tribune's Turnpike Funding Takes Its Toll here:

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Three new designs were released Thursday for gantry-type structures which will use motion sensors, antennas, lights and cameras to assess tolls on the landmark Golden Gate Bridge. (Renderings provided by GCBD.)

Golden Gate Bridge will use structures to collect tollsThe Golden Gate Bridge District Board of Directors will selects the winning design from the three presented:

  • The Tollbooth style that features a squared corner, flat arch on decorative cylinder supports
  • The Cable style that is a minimalist design with rounded corners and a simple horizontal tube overpass
  • The City Lights style that takes the cable style and adds a bridge girder-type above a narrow horizontal pipe overpass.

The 20-foot tall structure will be a single steel gantry supported by concrete foundations under which vehicles can pass and tolls will be charged using a new tolling system. It will be located about 140 feet south of the existing toll plaza but as of now there are no plans to remove the existing toll equipment.

The project will cost about $7 million and construction will begin in 2019.

Alabama

Tolls will help pay for the Mobile River BridgeIn Mobile, Ala., cranes are in place and preliminary foundation work is starting on the the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project.

Mobile has been trying to obtain a $250 million federal grant for the project, which is expected to be complete in 2025. With or without the grant, Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project officials said Thursday tolls will be required to pay for the project. However, the agency stresses those toll will not be collected until the bridge is completed.

Connecticut

The Connecticut transportation committee voted Thursday to take the first step toward installing electronic highway tolls in Connecticut, a funding model that has been controversial and rejected in recent years.

In a 19 to 17 vote, the committee approved a plan to install tolls on Interstates 95, 91, and 84, along with the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways.

According to the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut legislature will now need to authorize studies and recommendations and report back to the committee next year. Suggestions already put forward include giving Connecticut drivers a state income tax deduction for the tolls they pay or giving EZPass users discounts.

Read more in the Courant's Key Committee Approves First Step Toward Tolls here:

Maryland

The Maryland Senate has voted unanimously on a bill designed to change how the state handles toll violations that can rapidly become draconian in size. Problems identified in bill SB973 include interagency scheduling which can add delinquency citations to unpaid tolls the vehicle's owner has not been notified about, clunky EZPass customer service, and the Maryland Transportation Authority's collection processes.

Read more about what the Maryland Senate is doing to bring relief to motorists in the Maryland Reporter's story here:

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