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.
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:http://reason.org/studies/show/modernizing-the-interstate-highway