Poll Finds Support for Toll Roads, Public-Private Partnerships

A majority of Americans believe new transportation projects should be paid for with user-fees instead of tax increases, according to a new national Reason-Rupe poll of 1,200 adults on cell phones and land lines.

The Reason-Rupe poll finds 77 percent of Americans oppose increasing the federal gas tax, while just 19 percent favor raising the tax, which is currently 18.4 cents a gallon. The public thinks the government wastes the gas tax money it already receives. Sixty-five percent say the government spends transportation funding ineffectively, and just 23 say the money is spent effectively.

The survey shows Americans believe new roads and highways should be paid for by the people driving on them: 58 percent of Americans say new roads and highways should be funded by tolls. Twenty-eight percent say new road capacity should be paid for by tax increases.

The Reason-Rupe poll finds broad support for user-fees. If a toll road would save drivers a “significant” amount of time, 59 percent of Americans say they would pay to use it. And 57 percent favor converting carpool lanes, or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. Voters are much-less supportive of variably-priced toll lanes, however. Half of those surveyed oppose, and 39 percent favor, variably-priced tolls that rise and fall with traffic levels.

In terms of transportation spending priorities, 62 percent want to prioritize funding for road and highway projects, while 30 percent want to prioritize funding for mass transit projects.

As the debate over high-speed rail continues in California and elsewhere, a solid majority of Americans, 55 percent, say the private sector should build high-speed train systems where it thinks riders will pay to use rail. Just 35 percent of Americans believe federal and state governments should build high-speed rail systems where they think the trains are needed.

As governments at all levels look for ways to pay for transportation projects, public officials should note that 55 percent of Americans support using public-private partnerships to build critical infrastructure projects. Just 35 percent oppose using public-private partnerships to fund highways, airports and other infrastructure.

The National Transportation Safety Board has called for a ban on cell phones while driving and 69 percent of Americans tell Reason-Rupe that talking on a cell phone while driving should be illegal. Even more, 89 percent, say texting while driving should be illegal. The poll did not ask about using hands-free devices.

Full Poll Online

The complete Reason-Rupe survey is online at and

This Reason-Rupe poll, conducted December 3-13, 2011, surveyed a random, national sample of 1,200 adults by telephone (777 on landlines, 423 on cell phones). The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll was conducted for Reason Foundation by NSON Opinion Strategy.

This is part of a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues. This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.