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Roadscapes Wednesday: Are Tolls Coming To The Interstate Highway System

Roadscapes Geek Alabama

Everyone knows about the Interstate Highway System, many people drive on the interstate every day to commute back and forth.  The Interstates make sure our grocery stores are stocked with food and our businesses have the supplies they need to make money.  The Interstates have been one of the best things America has come up with in the last 100 years.  But here is a major problem, our Interstate Highway System is deteriorating.  Bridges are over 50 years old and need replacing.  Highways are too narrow or have too few lanes for the traffic and must be widen.  And in some areas, the pavement needs to be reconstructed for today’s traffic.  It’s not just the Interstates that needs work, all of our roads and streets needs maintenance as well, and funds are low.

The Highway Trust Fund is in trouble, and if something is not done to fix the funding problems, then the trust fund will go bankrupt, and funding to fix and repair roads will stop!  Things are so serious the funding could run out by the end of this year, so something has to be done.  But with the problems of partisan politics up in Washington D.C., any attempts to fix the trust fund will probably not happen anytime soon.  So what is one solution to fix the Highway Trust Fund, according to the Obama Administration, they want to allow states to place more tolls on the Interstate Highway System, and in my opinion, that is not a good idea!

Here is the problem if Alabama and ALDOT takes on the task of tolling all of the Interstates.  Some people will not take the Interstates to bypass the small towns and smaller 2-lane roads.  People will avoid the tolls and take the parallel US highway that follows the Interstates in Alabama.  What a taste of the things to come if the Interstates are tolled?  Every time an Interstate is closed for a short time because of an accident, traffic backs up onto the US highways, and it causes massive traffic jams.  If the Interstates were tolled, towns along the US routes would become so traffic congestioned that business and residents would suffer, all because people do not want to pay a toll.

So what needs to happen to rebuild the funds in the Highway Trust Fund?  One, putting a GPS tracker in each vehicle to charge by the mile (VMT Tax) is not going to work, because who wants to be tracked?  No one is willing to be tracked, so it will not work!  Tolling the entire Interstate Highway System will not work.  And just raising the gas tax will not work, because cars are getting better gas mileage.  The simple solution to fix the funding problems is to do something I found on New York Times website, start a “Ton Mile” fee.  Michael Webber suggests the “ton mile” fee would be based on how far vehicles travel and how heavy they are, so that all drivers pay their fair share to fix the resulting road damage.

A one-ton car that is driven 7,500 miles annually inflicts much less road damage than a two-ton truck that is driven 15,000 miles.  A half-cent fee per ton mile would cost a typical American car owner about $50 per year and would cover the highway fund’s revenue shortfall, and the fee could be assessed during an annual sticker renewal or inspection that is conducted at state level:  All the inspector has to do is read the odometer, look up the gross vehicle weight of the car’s make and model, then assess the fee.  If you want to learn more about the “ton mile” fee, read the article at:

No matter what happens, something must be done to fix the funding shortfalls, or the infrastructure in America will fall apart, and our economy will suffer.  Politicians might have to do a hard thing and upset their party base, but if it’s good for America, then do it!

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