Obama to Allow Interstate Tolls

Driving May Become More Expensive

Other than a few stretches across the country, interstate highways are by and large toll free, at least for now. The Highway Trust Fund that manages road maintenance and construction is close to running out of money and so the White House has lifted a moratorium on placing tolls on interstates. This is actually a good thing.

Fixing a Broken System

The Highway Trust Fund is funded entirely by the Federal Gas Tax, which has stood at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. For the last 21 years, cars have become more efficient, requiring less fuel. At the same time, the gas tax has become less valuable because it has not been adjusted at all for inflation. Imagine not getting a raise for 21 years! 

The reason that interstate tolls become necessary is that a simple raising of the gas tax is extremely politically unpopular. The public hears more taxes and says "no way," but if roads are not taxed more, they will fall even deeper into states of disrepair. So rather than raising the unpopular gas tax, the White House has decided to allow interstates to collect tolls. 

In a way, this is brilliant. The Highway Trust Fund pays for federal roads, but everybody pays the gas tax, regardless of whether they drive on those roads. Now, interstate tolls will only be paid by those who actually drive on the federal interstates. It will raise the needed revenue to pay for road repairs while not taxing those who do not use those specific roads. Additionally, if we bring the cost of driving more in line with what it actually costs society to maintain roads, more people may make the choice to use public transportation instead!