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Obama wants to Start Charging Tolls on Interstate Highways


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White House Wants to Lift Ban on Interstate Tolls

By RON NIXONAPRIL 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — Drivers on the nation’s Interstates could soon be paying more to travel.

A transportation proposal sent to Congress by the Obama administration on Tuesday would remove a prohibition on tolls for existing Interstate highways, clearing the way for states to raise revenue on roads that drivers currently use at no cost. Congress banned tolls on Interstates in 1956 when it created the national highway system under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The administration said lifting the toll ban would help address a shortfall in funding to pay for highway repairs. The tolls, along with other changes, could provide an additional $87 billion for aging roadways, tunnels and bridges, the administration said.

The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents toll companies and their vendors, applauded the administration’s decision.

“Tolling is a proven and effective tool to fund and finance more than 5,000 miles of roads, bridges and tunnels in 35 states,” said Patrick Jones, the group’s executive director. “To ensure our roads and bridges remain safe and reliable requires a variety of solutions. All options should be on the table so that states can choose the funding methods that work best for them.”

But the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, which includes American Trucking Associations, UPS, FedEx, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, said it was disappointed.

“Tolling has proven to be an inefficient mechanism for collecting transportation revenue, consuming up to 20 percent of revenue generated, and those paying the toll may not even see that road improved because the president’s plan would allow toll revenue to go to other projects in the state,” said Miles Morin, spokesman for the alliance.

Mr. Morin said lifting the ban would cause drivers to bypass Interstate highways, hurting businesses like fast-food franchises that depend on the traffic.

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

The proposal comes as Congress prepares to rewrite the existing surface transportation bill. A Congressional Budget Office study found that the Highway Trust Fund, which helps pays for Interstate repairs and is financed by a gasoline tax, will run out of money in August.

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Obama's highway tolls take cash, time and privacy: Column

Glenn Harlan Reynolds 4:48 p.m. EDT May 4, 2014

When government success means you pay more taxes.

It's yet another lesson in the law of unintended consequences — and, as usual, the government wants us to pick up the tab for its poor planning. This time, it's the Obama administration's proposal to allow tolls on interstate highways, where such tolls have been banned since the Eisenhower days.

The problem is that government efforts to discourage driving and to encourage fuel conservation have been successful. With people burning less gas, revenues from the gasoline tax are down.

People burning less gas is what the government wanted. But with gas prices at historically high levels (often over four bucks a gallon), and with trust in government at historic lows, politicians aren't too enthusiastic about taking the obvious step, increasing the gas tax. They don't want to take the heat. Instead, they're looking to increase revenue in other, less obvious ways.

This has led states such as Oregon and New Jersey to propose taxing people for mileage instead of gas, probably using GPS trackers. That approach increases taxes most on gas-sipping hybrids and electric cars, which use no gas at all. (You know, the cars the government has been busy subsidizing because they use less or no gas.) But the idea of having all our movement tracked by government-mandated GPS units hasn't played very well with voters, so those schemes have had trouble getting traction.

Tolls are plan B. But they'll also make the driving experience worse, and less private. If states set up old-fashioned toll booths on the interstate, as a number already have for bridges and tunnels, you'll have to slow down to pay. (Which, ironically, will waste gas.) Politicians will undoubtedly like it, though, because all those toll booth employees will be government employees who can probably be counted on to re-elect incumbents.

Of course, this is the 21st century, so we'll let drivers who opt in use radio frequency chips or bar codes to whiz by sensors that withdraw money from your bank account. But that's not really an improvement because it also means that the government will have a handy computerized record of where you go and when. It might not save time, either, as E-ZPass lanes clog up, too.

One of the nice things about driving in America today is that if you tire of the Big Brother aspects of air travel, you can just get in your car and go. Sensor-equipped tolls will make it easy for a government that already spies on us too much to spy on us some more. Whatever promises are made now, experience shows that's exactly what the government will do.

If the gas tax really isn't raising enough money to fix the roads, then our politicians should man up and increase it or better yet stop spending so much of it on sidewalks, bike lanes and mass transit. The worst possible outcome is tolls that instead of just taking our money like a gas tax, will take our money, waste our time and destroy our privacy.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.

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Prefer a gas tax?

Aren't there already taxes on gas?

Exactly. That is why we need a new program with a new bureaucracy. How else are we going to expand government and waste 2/3 of the new revenue on something other than the intended, stated purpose? Plus, think of all the jobs we get to create by expanding highways to ten lanes at the toll booths, building the toll booths, collecting the tolls. These are great jobs created, not real demand but, purely by bureaucratic waste. I look forward to slowing down to a stop to pay my toll or, installing an electronic toll paying device on my car.

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This will never happen primarily because its just another tax and spend democrat boondoggle. Of this you can certain, if it did happen and hypothetically generated $25 billion dollars in tax revenue the democrats would spend additional $50 billion like they always do whenever they raise taxes.

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This will never happen primarily because its just another tax and spend democrat boondoggle. Of this you can certain, if it did happen and hypothetically generated $25 billion dollars in tax revenue the democrats would spend additional $50 billion like they always do whenever they raise taxes.

Did the last Republican administration inherit a deficit or a surplus? Did the last Republican administration operate with a balanced budget? Did the last Republican administration pass the largest spending bill in history?

The problem is NOT the Democrats. The problem is the government.

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This will never happen primarily because its just another tax and spend democrat boondoggle. Of this you can certain, if it did happen and hypothetically generated $25 billion dollars in tax revenue the democrats would spend additional $50 billion like they always do whenever they raise taxes.

Did the last Republican administration inherit a deficit or a surplus? Did the last Republican administration operate with a balanced budget? Did the last Republican administration pass the largest spending bill in history?

The problem is NOT the Democrats. The problem is the government.

Thats a convenient argument but the last republican administration inherited the after affects of republican run Congress that passed the Contract with America which is THE reason Clinton years and those that immediately followed were in such good fiscal shape. Bush didn't enjoy the same republican majority but did try working across the aisle which cost him especially the last 2 years of his term.

The problem is exacerbated by republicans who get comfortable in Washington insulated from reality. The current republican party has moved so far to the left they do indeed contribute to the overall problems and i do agree the problem is a bloated federal bureaucracy that has far exceed the Constitutional visions entertained by the founding fathers. However, a conservative view of fiscal responsibility would change things positively. This country was made great on the back of traditional values and conservative principles...like it or not

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This will never happen primarily because its just another tax and spend democrat boondoggle. Of this you can certain, if it did happen and hypothetically generated $25 billion dollars in tax revenue the democrats would spend additional $50 billion like they always do whenever they raise taxes.

Did the last Republican administration inherit a deficit or a surplus? Did the last Republican administration operate with a balanced budget? Did the last Republican administration pass the largest spending bill in history?

The problem is NOT the Democrats. The problem is the government.

I agree, but apples to oranges when administrations inherit things sometimes. But yes, government is the problem and it's much larger than a president.

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