There has been increasing focus on the use of tolls and public-private partnerships in recent years as an answer to our highway funding woes. Instead of taking the straightforward and long-overdue step of raising fuel taxes, governments are setting up toll lanes or turning to third party companies to build and maintain roads in exchange for toll revenue.

News out of Texas is a perfect example of why this is not the answer.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Texas toll road operator is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – because even the fastest speed limit in the country wasn’t enough to lure drivers to pay for the privilege of traveling between Austin and San Antonio.

The 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 has a posted speed limit of 85 mph and was supposed to give drivers a faster alternative to the busy truck route of nearby I-35. But the road isn’t seeing enough traffic to allow its operator, SH 130 Concession Co. and two affiliates, to pay back creditors, reports the WSJ’s Tom Corrigan.

As the paper notes, the Texas company is not alone. Several other toll road operators have filed for bankruptcy in recent years.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that a new study from Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research contends that fuel prices are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future — which should make it politically easier for states to raise fuel taxes.

The study focused on Ball State’s home state of Indiana, noting that “the cost of driving 100 miles is now half what it was in the 1930s and, according to generally accepted economic models, an increase in gasoline taxes of 5 cents will have no appreciable impact on key measures of employment or GDP in Indiana.”

The Indiana Legislature is considering a proposal to raise the state’s gas tax by 4 cents.

It’s not alone. Even though the federal government has resisted a fuel tax hike at the national level, six states implemented fuel tax hikes last summer.

If state legislators are putting on their big-boy pants and implementing fuel tax increases, why can't federal lawmakers do the same?

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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