New Study Advocates Tolling Interstates to Pay for Improvements

September 12, 2013

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Over the next two decades most of the aging Interstate highway system will need to be reconstructed and will cost approximately $1 trillion - nearly $600 billion in rebuilding costs plus $400 billion to add capacity, according to a new study from the right/libertarian leaning think-tank the Reason Foundation.

A new Reason Foundation study claims tolling Interstates would raise around $1 trillion needed for road projects. Photo: Evan Lockridge
A new Reason Foundation study claims tolling Interstates would raise around $1 trillion needed for road projects. Photo: Evan Lockridge

Robert Poole, director of transportation policy for the group, says that the price tag, while extremely large, could be covered almost entirely by toll revenues generated by charging drivers and truckers via all-electronic toll collection on the rebuilt Interstates.

"The current transportation funding system is failing and won't be able to rebuild or upgrade the Interstate system," he said. "This study shows that alternative financing, via all-electronic tolling, is a feasible way to transform the Interstate system."

According to a release Poole created detailed traffic forecasts, identified areas that need additional Interstate capacity, pinpointed key shipping corridors that would benefit from truck-only lanes, and made construction cost calculations for every state. The costs of reconstructing urban Interstates, for example, ranged from a low of $315 million in Vermont to a high of $59 billion in California.

In 37 of the 50 states revenues from modest toll rates would be sufficient to cover 90% or more of the costs associated with reconstructing and widening the Interstates. The baseline toll rates would be 3.5 cents per mile for cars and 14 cents a mile for trucks. The tolls would be indexed to inflation and adjusted annually. Some states, like California, New York and Alaska, would require higher toll rates, as detailed in the study.

The study comes as the nation’s highway funding authorization expires in just over a year and it will be up to Congress to come up with a new multi-year plan with some calling for increasing highway funding.

The full report, "Interstate 2.0: Modernizing the Interstate Highway System Via Toll Finance," is available online at:


  1. 1. Tom [ September 13, 2013 @ 05:24AM ]

    Adding an additional layer of taxes merely allows more more wasteful bureaucratic government work rules and benefits. An additional layer of road taxes will allow another flow of money for the DOT to waste. Traveled miles will necessarily decrease because of increased tax burden. This results in reduced revenue and another reason to easily raise taxes even more
    Where in this report does it look at improving rules, work and construction inefficiencies?
    Higher taxes are always the first answer for inefficient government bureaucracy.

  2. 2. Kevin J. Reidy [ September 13, 2013 @ 11:45AM ]

    Oh, yes, "Reason" and the Libertarians just love the idea of tolling everything, that way, public infrastructure will be leased to private corporations who will then profit enormously!

    Just as long as multi-billiion dollar corporations can control everything, run the small operators out of business, and profit stupendously off of the average person, it's all good.

    Look at how successful the toll road leases have been....oh, wait a minute, they've been a disaster for the taxpayers of any state that allowed it.

  3. 3. tom j [ October 05, 2013 @ 02:08PM ]


  4. 4. L King [ October 06, 2013 @ 05:54PM ]

    Apparently Robert Poole has never been driving in Atlanta....A toll lane only for cars at a great expense to Georgia DOT and now even during peak rush hours, almost no traffic in that lane.....Yes I realize if they add toll lanes to interstates the other U.S highways running parallel to those interstates will be restricted to "no truck traffic" thus forcing the trucks to stay on the tolled interstates. Kevin is correct, most of the money will go to private operators running the toll system just like the "camera redlights" and the "speed cameras". Large transportation entities such as UPS/Fed-X etc would negotiate reduced toll rates thus putting the smaller carriers and individual operators out of business.

  5. 5. jack [ October 07, 2013 @ 07:21AM ]

    Good idea, place tolls on highways thereby pushing trucks/cars back onto roads localities dont have funding for so they can avoid said tolls (this will happen, I've work with fleets my entire life). This will NOT fix the problem. what is the problem? Goverment bureaucracies and their inefficiencies, fix that!

  6. 6. Cliff Downing [ October 12, 2013 @ 08:18AM ]

    The idea of additional taxation, in the form of user fees on the Interstate Highway system, is not a terrible idea, except, for the way road construction occurs today. The Alaska Highway, almost 1600 miles cut thru the wilderness in the early 40's, using 30's technology, was completed and certified as a standard highway by the U.S. Public Roads Commission in 18 months. Today, road crews can hardly build an off or on ramp in 18 months at a tremendous waste of time and money. Even though we have GPS and laser technology, they can't get a road and a bridge the same height, as verified by trying to drink a cup of coffee when you cross one of these junctions. Today's road crews can hardly redo a 10 mile stretch of road in a state in the time it took to build the entire span across the state originally. Witness I-80 thru Iowa City. Almost 10 years and they are still putting the final touches on the project to redo the existing road and add just one more lane. To lay fees on Interstate users is just a way to grow the waste and fraud. No way.


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