White House Plans to Lift Ban on Interstate Tolls

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 06:56 AM

By Elliot Jager

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With the Highway Trust Fund set to run out of cash in August and Congress loath to raise taxes on fuel, the Obama administration is asking Congress to allow the imposition of tolls on interstate highways, The New York Times reported.

The proposal is part of a multi-year transportation bill sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, according to Streets Blog USA.

Interstate highways have been mostly toll free since the Interstate system was created in 1956.

The trust fund's main revenue source is the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal tax on gasoline and the 24.4-cent tax on diesel. These were last raised in 1993 and returns have not kept up with inflation, The Associated Press reported.

Tolls are expected to make up for the shortfall by generating an additional $87 billion to repair dilapidated roadways, tunnels and bridges, according to the Times.

Toll companies praised the administration's bill saying it was the best way of ensuring roads and bridges stayed safe. Heavy users, such as the American Trucking Associations and stores that depend on highway traffic such as Dunkin' Donuts, were unhappy, the Times reported.

Opponents warned toll money would go into a general pool and not necessarily benefit roads where the revenue were collected.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported the administration move as "a positive step forward," but said "raising federal gasoline and diesel taxes is the simplest, most straightforward way to address the revenue problem in the near term," AP reported.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, "Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable – and unaffordable. This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve," Streets Blog USA reported.

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