The toll road folly

By: - July 31, 2008 4:26 pm

 More evidence today that North Carolina's recent foray into the world of toll roads (including the transfer of $25 million form core public services to the construction of new suburban sprawl-ways) was terrible idea – kind of the public policy equivalent of the investor who gets on the bandwagon of a once popular stock that's already started to tank.

Here are some highlights from a USA Today story:

Gas prices drive motorists away from toll roads, shrink revenue

By Judy Keen, USA TODAY

CHICAGO – Record gas prices are prompting drivers to steer clear of some toll roads, bridges and tunnels, causing declines in the revenue that's used for repairs and maintenance.

‘It's killing us,' says Parrish French, finance director for West Virginia's parkways authority. In June, revenue from passenger car tolls was down 7.3% from June 2007, and tolls paid by commercial drivers on the state's 88 miles of toll roads declined 4%.

Transportation facilities in 34 states collect about $8 billion in tolls a year, according to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.

Those facilities are feeling the effects of high gas prices and a switch to carpooling and mass transit: Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles in May 2008 than in May 2007, the Federal Highway Administration says.

‘Everyone's talking about increasing tolls' for the first time since 1981 to ensure that maintenance needs are met, French says. Cars pay $3.75 to drive the full length of West Virginia's toll road; 18-wheel trucks pay $12.75."

The story also notes that "mass-transit ridership is up 4-5%." North Carolina, of course, continues to spend only a tiny fragment of its state transportation budget on public transit while also neglecting upkeep of existing bridges and infrastructure.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors and voices regular commentaries, and hosts the 'News & Views' weekly radio show/podcast.