New bill would allow states to turn interstates into toll roads

With funding for highway repairs harder to find, the new transportation bill from the White House would give states more room to add tolls to interstates:

With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs.

The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling…

“We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”…

Foxx said the highway trust fund would face a $63 billion shortfall over the next four years.

One expert suggests otherwise in this story but I imagine there are a lot of drivers who will not like this. Yet, roads are not free; they are a public service that have to be paid for. And the all-around costs of driving are not cheap: gas, insurance, car repairs, car purchases, road construction and maintenance, and then the host of other industries and business that exists on top of an automobile-driven culture.

While there will be a lot of debate over how roads can be funded (raising the gas tax which hasn’t changed since 1993, finding new revenue sources for roads like corporate taxes, or charging drivers per mile driven), this all hints at a larger issue: driving in America could change quite a bit in the coming decades. Some of the impetus is economic; who is going to pay for these roads which are expensive to maintain and repair? Some of the impetus is on the technology side: driverless cars may not be that far away since such vehicles could be much safer and more efficient on the road and other innovations could make cars and roads more efficient. Some of it may be cultural: Americans may be interested in driving less and living in sorts of places that require fewer individual trips by car. Some of it is environmental: improving the efficiency of cars and advocating for development that limits single-person car trips. This doesn’t mean the car will disappear from American life; it is an engrained part of American culture. Yet, how Americans view cars and driving might look different several decades from now.

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