Interstate Highways Tolls Get Green Light From White House

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 08:08 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Interstate highway tolls have been given the green light by the Obama Administration, which on Tuesday reversed a long-standing federal prohibition to the revenue-raising tactic in reaction to the transportation funding crisis.

The four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill proposal that was sent to Congress would lift the prohibition that has been in effect since 1956, when Congress banned tolls on Interstates through the creation of the national highway system, The New York Times reported.

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"We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told The Washington Post. "We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available."

"The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years," Foxx added. "As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty."

The Highway Trust Fund is a transportation fund that is subsidized through a federal fuel tax that amounts to 18.3 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. According to the administration, the toll addition could provide an additional $87 billion for aging roadways, tunnels and bridges, The New York Times noted.

The lifted toll ban was welcomed by The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), which advocates on behalf of toll companies and their vendors in more than 20 countries.

"Tolling is a proven and effective tool to fund and finance more than 5,000 miles of roads, bridges and tunnels in 35 states," IBTTA's Executive Director Patrick Jones told The Times. "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."

While the interstate toll prohibition held strong for most of the country, there are segments of the interstate where tolls exist, specifically the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes as well as Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia, The Washington Post noted.

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