Are toll roads good or bad for America? | The Tylt
Are toll roads good or bad for America?
Trump's latest infrastructure initiative argues private investment should have a role in rebuilding America's roads and bridges. Part of his plan includes the liberalization of tolling policy so that private-public partnership may be created to address the country's infrastructure problems.
Tolling is generally restricted on interstate highways. This restriction prevents public and private investment in such facilities. We should reduce this restriction and allow the States to assess their transportation needs and weigh the relative merits of tolling assets. The Administration also supports allowing the private sector to construct, operate, and maintain interstate rest areas, which are often overburden and inadequately maintained.
Transportation economists have often argued that toll roads are in fact the answer to improving America's roads. Taxes aren't enough to cover the cost of building and maintaining highways, and traffic congestion only makes the problem worse.
What [drivers] pay in the form of gas and other taxes, doesn’t come close to covering the costs of maintaining the roads on which they travel—let alone recoup all the productivity lost in congestion and the damage that tailpipe emissions do to our health. Compared to what society pays, driving is practically a free ride.
It is no secret that the U.S. falls far behind when it comes to infrastructure, and part of that is because the government simply does not have enough money to maintain their roads. Over a decade ago, Congress enlisted the help of a bipartisan commission of experts to find a solution to the transportation funding problem, and they came up with a "Vehicle Miles Traveled tax" that would charge drivers per mile traveled. It seems perfectly reasonable that those Americans who use the roads regularly help pay to maintain them.
A Vehicle Miles Traveled tax is what it sounds like: a toll that applies wherever you go. Drivers pay by the mile, at a rate that reflects the actual cost of driving. The idea is popular. More than half of states have looked into taxing VMT. The most prominent has been Oregon. In 2006 the state recruited 300 drivers for a pilot program, and outfitted their cars with GPS. For each mile, they pay 1.5 cents. (They are also exempt from paying the state gas tax.)
Americans pay for the amount of water and electricity we use, why shouldn't we subsidize the amount of road we use? If gas taxes can't cut it, a toll just might.
Toll roads are an inefficient, backwards approach to providing public highways. Worse, they foster corruption, political patronage, and discourage needed improvements on the rest of the highway system.
For starters, while toll road advocates often reference "free-market principles" and "economic incentives," Baxter points out that toll roads "are literally a monopoly that is sanctioned and protected by the state." Toll roads exist in an environment free of competition. They can make whatever pricing decisions they want. How does that function like a "free market?"
The state’s citizens and other highway users have no channel to influence toll road management and pricing decisions. Upgrades and improvements to any highway viewed as competing with the toll road are likely to be postponed or ignored. Unnecessary congestion, underposted speed limits and arbitrary enforcement on alternative roads are silently condoned by transportation officials and elected officials.
Additionally, the idea of monitoring exactly how many miles one travels has a Big Brother feel to it. With gas taxes, drivers are being charged for how much fuel they consume which has environmental impacts. Those driving more fuel-efficient vehicles shouldn't be charged as much as those driving gas guzzlers, even if they drive the same distance.
Compare that to our system of fuel taxes that charge users of the highway system based on fuel consumption. No charge cards, no electronic surveillance, no toll bureaucracy, no cameras, no roadside monitoring (no automated enforcement!), not even any toll booths!
The government should be funneling resources into improving our highways, not building expensive toll roads. The "private-public partnership" Trump so often touts is just an illusion that would hurt the average American in the long run.