Toll Roads Take Front Seat for States Fixing Road Woes

USA Today had an interesting wrap-up of tollroad activity around the nation in yesterday’s report (August 3, 2010). Interest is surging because it’s increasingly clear that the federal government isn’t going to be much of a piggy bank for road infrastructure. State and local governments are also strapped for cash, so they are increasingly looking for sustainable revenue streams. That often means user fees.

Among the projects the USA Today highlighted were the following:

• The governors of Illinois and Indiana in June signed an agreement to move forward with the Illiana Expressway, a toll road that would connect Interstate 65 in Indiana with Interstates 55 and 57 in Illinois.

• Authorities in Louisville and southern Indiana recently said tolls could generate more than half the $4.1 billion needed to build two new bridges across the Ohio River and refurbish a major highway interchange. Drivers currently pay no toll.

• Tolling is funding three major road projects under construction or planned in the Washington, D.C., area: the Inter-County Connector, an 18-mile, 6-lane limited access road in Maryland; four new lanes on a 14-mile stretch of the Capital Beltway, and converting two express lanes to three on 28 miles of the I-395/I-95 freeway, both in Northern Virginia.

• North Carolina, which began construction last year on its first modern toll road, is spending more than $6 million studying how to pay for much-needed improvements to a 182-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in the state. “We have to wait for the study to be completed so we can have an educated conversation about whether tolling is an option,” says Greer Beaty, spokeswoman for the state transportation department.

• Birmingham, Ala., Mayor William Bell is considering tolling as a way to reopen a 74-year-old bridge over Lake Purdy that’s been closed since December. Under a $4 million plan, a private company would rebuild Grants Mill Road bridge as a toll bridge at no cost to the city.

• Transportation officials in the Fredericksburg, Va., area last month moved ahead with a plan to build a new I-95 interchange and toll road. Tolls would pay about half the $300 million cost, says Robinson, administrator of the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.