- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2010

With an aging interstate system and dwindling federal resources set aside for long-term transportation rehabilitation, state governments have been left to fend for themselves (“N.C., Va. considering tolls on interstates,” News, May 27). With lower tax revenues and strapped budgets, states need to find more creative ways to fund their transportation needs.

There has been a push by governors, state legislators, local officials and even some members of Congress for comprehensive transportation reform. Instead, little action has been taken. The critical question is, what will states do as the interstate system crumbles and demands for greater capacity increase? One solution states have is the ability to levy a toll on vehicles entering and exiting their borders.

The Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, managed by the Federal Highway Administration, was created to allow tolls on interstate facilities to fund needed rehabilitation or reconstruction. While this law does put limits on other funding provided for the maintenance of these projects, it creates another revenue source for selected states to utilize in making parts of their transportation systems better.

In 2003, under Gov. Mark Warner, Virginia was the first state approved for the program. The original proposal was to put a toll on Interstate 81. Recently, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell requested that this project be switched to put the toll on the I-95 border of Virginia and North Carolina. According to Mr. McDonnell’s office, the toll is estimated to be between $1 and $2 per vehicle per trip and will result in approximately $30 to $60 million in additional revenue for improvements to Interstate 95.

Many people disagree with tolls, but to them I say, “What are your solutions?” We waited for the federal government, to no avail, and now states have a responsibility to maintain safe and reliable interstate services for all. Until the federal government acts, I would advocate that states all across the country demand tolls on interstates and when the citizens begin to complain, give them the number to the White House switchboard and ask the president for real transportation reform.

The potential economic impact of tolls is enormous and in the short term, can result in solving many states’ transportation budget tribulations, especially in these hard economic times. Solutions such as tolls will have to be the alternative until the federal government sends down long-term reforms to the Highway Trust Fund for interstate expansion. In addition, tolls do a great job of implementing a principle unheard of when it comes to public goods in America: “Pay for what you use.”

RICHARD A. FOWLER
Director, Phoenix Freedom PAC
Alexandria, Va.