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Old 05-02-2014, 10:29 PM   #1
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Toll Roads

I recently read where the Fed's are thinking of letting State's make Interstates Highways into Toll Roads. If that happens it will sure make traveling a lot more expensive for everyone.
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Old 05-02-2014, 10:49 PM   #2
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The user-pay thing is not a new one; it's been around for quite some time, with the same criticism (good for the well-heeled; bad for the less well-heeled) in every case. This is just an extension of the idea to another area.

In this case, though, one can imagine one result, namely, that more folks may start using US and state highways more. I guess that is would be somewhat helpful for the local economies served by those highways. And I guess it would be good for people to get to know their country in a more close-up fashion than is possible from the interstates.

As for myself, I like driving lonely US and state highways and won't cherish adding more traffic to them.


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Old 05-03-2014, 12:19 AM   #3
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I expect the trucking industry would have a few things to say about this. For instance, Wal-Mart distributes most of their goods by truck, and most of the containers arriving into the Port of Oakland here leave by truck. It is hard to imagine the effect on our economy if this were put in place.


Toll plazas would also have a major impact on traffic flow, but these days it could all be done electronically with license plate readers.


A read a few years ago that all cars in Singapore have mandatory readers and they are billed based on miles and kind of road. I am SURE that no one would try and track you with this technology...
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Old 05-03-2014, 05:01 AM   #4
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I recently read where the Fed's are thinking of letting State's make Interstates Highways into Toll Roads. If that happens it will sure make traveling a lot more expensive for everyone.
Can you point us to where you read it?

In Oklahoma, Interstate 44 includes the H. E. Bailey Turnpike already. But the highway was already a toll road before it became part of the Interstate highway system.
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Old 05-03-2014, 06:38 AM   #5
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There are many government decisions that can serve a dual agenda. Where it is true that revenue needs to be raised, and it is true that the Obama administration is seeking bipartisan solutions with a gridlock prone Congress, this proposal has subtle benefits for both the federal and state governments if panic migrations ensue during the coming Earth changes. The bill allows for states to insert toll booths and since most states are suffering under a budget shortfall, they are expected to act quickly once approved by Congress. State’s rights are not challenged, thus, so this is expected to be a popular bill, with little opposition.

We have long warned that those expecting to migrate to their safe locations not wait too long, as migrants can be blocked. Those expecting to travel should have a foot hold in their safe locations – own land with a deed in hand, or have relatives who can be called by a checkpoint looking for verification, or have legitimate business down the road. Casual travel, with a carload of kids and suitcases, with no definite destination is likely to be stopped. What governments do not want are carloads of new arrivals driving around the countryside, as home invasion would be the most likely result.

The interstate highway system in the US is notable by its connectedness, wherein one superhighway connects to another. Multi-lane, and with solid bridges built to last, the interstate system in the US will likely be functional after disasters where side roads will become blocked by washouts or heaving roads.
Toll gates are essentially checkpoints, as they stop traffic. Those turned back would then be funneled into relocation services. A rural state such as Nebraska would then take only those refuges from a New Madrid disaster that had been approved to be farm workers or relocated to bunkers on federal land. Governments fear uncontrolled chaos, and toll roads provide control.

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Old 05-03-2014, 09:15 AM   #6
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A read a few years ago that all cars in Singapore have mandatory readers and they are billed based on miles and kind of road. I am SURE that no one would try and track you with this technology...
I think you will see this before the Interstate system goes completely toll.

Government is scared stiff by the likely hood of electric car becoming prevalent. The potential lose from the fuel tax will push for a monitoring of miles driven rather than additional toll roads.

Now speaking of toll roads. Those using any form of Easy Pass you should know that the Politicians controlling many of the toll roads have a new scheme. Maryland now charges ALL TRAILERS at a commercial rate, almost tripling the rate. The Delaware bridge authority has raised my toll 5 fold. Maine charged me $22.00 extra last trip.

If you use any form of prepayment for toll roads you have to know the rates for that road or run the risk of grossly overpaying. You can avoid the charges if you pay cash in most cases. Not Maryland they just say thanks for cash or Easy Pass.

Now as to how that effects the general economy along the road I for one will go out of my way to never buy a thing in Maryland while traveling through.
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:01 AM   #7
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I don't have too much of an issue with toll roads... the people using them pay for them, instead of having a bunch of people traveling through and not paying for them. It is probably the most equitable form of road use tax there is.

As far as freight and the costs killing the economy... the cost of shipping goods from China to the US stores is only about 3% of the total retail cost.

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Old 05-03-2014, 11:08 AM   #8
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This issue of declining tax revenue is a serious issue and is not going to improve without action of some sort. In full disclosure I will acknowledge that our company builds components that are used in the asphalt production, asphalt paving and road construction industries.

Roads as well as the other elements of our infrastructure are expensive to maintain and the don't fix themselves. Some years ago a study was conducted by a coalition of parties such as AAA and the Chamber of Commerce; this study concluded that our nation needs to spend around $87 billion/year just to maintain our current road network (patch holes/repave worn roads/replace worn bridges). That does not include building new lane-miles, just fixing what we have.

In the past 10 years or so the costs of materials to do this work has also increased dramatically. Trucking companies that haul the rock and asphalt burn a lot of diesel and we all know what has happened to the price of diesel. No one wants rock quarries anywhere near their home-no matter if the quarry has been there for 100 years and the brand new home was built right next to it. That means these materials are now being hauled farther than ever. Also, the actual asphaltic oil used in the production of most roadways has gone from around $275/ton (depending on location/ oil spec etc.) to has high as $785/ton in some areas.

While this is going on, cars are getting much better mileage than years past, hybrids are coming on strong and electric cars use no gas at all; this all leads to an actual decease in the number of gallons of gas used over previous years. For years the federal gas tax ($.184/gallon since 1993) has gone into the Transportation Trust Fund to fund road construction. For large scale jobs, the majority of the funding currently comes from the Feds, around 25% or so from the state and a small percentage from county/local sources. This leads to today where the Transportation Trust Fund will be broke in anywhere from late June to early August of this year (depending on which agency you listen to). When that happens all major road work will come to a stop. Soon the happiest Airstream people will be those selling new tires, new wheels and new axles to replace those eaten by the potholes.

Let's combine this with the fact that no one trusts anyone any longer. Most Americans don't trust the government to use their tax money wisely. The people don't trust the companies like ours doing this work and we don't trust the regulators to make sound decisions without politics being involved. I've met many people in my travels who don't oppose a gas tax increases as long as they go solely for road work but they don't want to fund high speed rail. Then I meet legislators on Capitol Hill who tell me point blank that roads don't matter to them, only high speed rail does because "California's high speed rail is Obama's legacy and it's not going anywhere!"

Many people talk about the recent "Shovel Ready" stimulus from a few years ago as an example of cooperation to fix this. Well, the truth is that out of the $787 billion stimulus (the total amount varies according to which agency you listen to) only $34 billion went to actual road construction. That's right, only 4.3% went to rebuilding highways. Consequently I can't argue with people who don't want transponders in their cars measuring miles driven. What else will be done with that location data?

Toll roads are one element of infrastructure funding. But long term, the solution must apply equally to the Tesla rolling down Wilshire Blvd in L.A. as well as I-70 in the middle of Kansas.
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:22 AM   #9
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I might not have a problem with tool road either if I had not already paid for them years ago.

The interstate highway system was proposed by President Eisenhower as a way to improve our overall transportation system. We paid for them back in the 60s. The current idea of adding tolls is only to increase the "Trough" to feed at.

The George Washington Bridge in New York was opened with a nickle toll for car until the bridge would be paid off. Some how the toll is now closer to 150 times that with several 1000s more cars per day. Can you say Slippery Slope?
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:39 AM   #10
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I might not have a problem with tool road either if I had not already paid for them years ago.

The interstate highway system was proposed by President Eisenhower as a way to improve our overall transportation system. We paid for them back in the 60s. The current idea of adding tolls is only to increase the "Trough" to feed at.

The George Washington Bridge in New York was opened with a nickle toll for car until the bridge would be paid off. Some how the toll is now closer to 150 times that with several 1000s more cars per day. Can you say Slippery Slope?
Might have paid to build it, but as Zymurbrian points out... they have to be maintained. And gas taxes aren't even coming close. Tolls help to close that gap AND are collected where they used, hopefully they are being used to maintain the roads they are collected on, but as pointed out there is a strong mistrust of the government and whether they use the taxes where they are supposed to.

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Old 05-03-2014, 12:27 PM   #11
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Cheap and efficient communication is essential to a developed and (hopefully) advanced nation. Highways, rail, telephone and internet are all part of this. The US is falling far behind other nations in all forms of communication.

Highway tolls benefit the wealthy most because they can afford them and the lower and, increasingly middle, classes are hurt the most. Guess which party favors tolls the most? I am disappointed the administration is giving in on this. At present, for the most part, only roads that had tolls before they were part of the interstate system, can have tolls now, though there have been a few exceptions allowed.

Anyone who has to pay the highest tolls (big trucks and RV's) has a strong economic incentive to avoid toll roads. Since truckers also have a time element in delivering shipments, most will still use the new toll roads, but a percentage will clog other roads to save some money even if it takes an extra hour. Shipping costs will increase. RV'ers have less time pressure, but if I'm traveling one or two thousand miles to a destination, I can save time and fuel by traveling on a high speed highway and that may be worth it.

I used to live in the northeast where there have been toll roads for decades. It was an art to figure out how to avoid tolls. I prefer back roads so we can experience the countryside, but travel can be very slow, accidents are more likely and with extra nights at campgrounds, it is probably more expensive than the tolls. I sometimes avoid states with a lot of toll roads because it is hard to get around. Tolls can pay for maintenance, but there is a hidden cost to government—resentments that build up every time you pay the toll. If many miles of interstates were tolled, there would be a disincentive to travel to far away destinations and remote ones may have a significant decrease in visits. In Colorado, the only efficient way to cross much of the state east to west is I-70 and tourism is already dependent on that road. Traffic across the mountains can be stop and go on ski weekends, leaf peeping time, during storms and other busy tourist periods. I believe they want to add a toll lane. For us, we try to use I-70 only on weekdays. If it were tolled (all lanes), we might take US 50 and 285 to Denver even though it is not quite as fast. I expect others would make the same decision and traffic might become a disincentive to ever go to Denver.

The idea that only users should pay for government services sounds good until you think about how good communication is necessary for a healthy economy. The gas tax system worked for generations and was a user fee, but as noted above, doesn't share the cost once we have other types of fuel or fuel use per mile decreases. There is also built into the system through registration fees and tolls based on axles, increased costs based on relative road damage (more axles crudely means more weight), higher fees for heavier (use fee) or more expensive vehicles (progressive taxation). Commercial registration fees and road taxes are higher since they receive a direct benefit from a good road system and basically as a group of citizens, we are leasing a part of the road for purposes used to make a profit. But the logic of that is weak because private citizens use the roads to go to work and that could be considered a commercial use.

I think a good communication structure to be essential to a strong country and that the best way to finance roads to be the income tax. It spreads the cost to everyone and those that make the most, pay the most. The rich seem to be doing quite well, so I have no sympathy when they whine about taxes. The gas tax is probably going to make less and less sense as the years go by and once hybrids and electric cars are dominant, things will change. Tolls will distort things a lot and will hurt those least able to pay, increase traffic on other roads and do not solve the problem of not enough money through a gas and diesel tax for non-tolled roads.

If income inequality is not solved, a significant part of the population will not travel at all because between lower and lower incomes and more expensive travel, they couldn't afford it. Already, half of our costs of trailer travel is gas—add tolls and we stay nearby. The national economy is based in significant part on auto and truck manufacture and sales, but less travel means less need to buy the product. Tourist destinations have fewer customers. Restaurants and fuel stops and Walmarts along major highways make less money. Parks get less revenue. Our country depends on cheap travel. A big change in funding for roads can have significant economic problems.

Other areas of communication that are problematical are telephone and internet. Cell phones are expensive and service is not always very good. Internet is worse—very expensive and slow compared to other countries. There is little or no regulation of both and the companies that are overcharging for mediocre or worse service care little about the customer. This situation is holding the country back. Landline telephone service has been regulated for generations, has been cheap and covers all the country and helped this country develop. But internet and cellphone companies are only weakly regulated.

Before the federal government started funding a system of federal highways before WW II, America had a terrible highway system. It was hardly a system with no signs, no road numbers and not much pavement. The interstate system only came in the 1950's to improve highways more and were copied from Germany's autobahns. Universal landline service was only possible after the feds funded it in rural areas starting in the 1960's. Not quite the same thing, but rural electrical availability was only possible because the feds backed rural electric cooperatives starting in the 1930's. Modern America would not be possible without these communication benefits from the federal government.

I am not optimistic things are going to change for the better so far as any of this is concerned. Using transponders to measure miles driven is too much like universal surveillance. Such thoughts lead to paranoia for some people, but it is true that when anyone has the power to watch you they may do so. So the only source of enough money to build and maintain roads and have good highway system available for everyone, is the income tax. Since one party can block just about anything and they seem to think we can pay for things without taxes, and especially without a progressive tax, we will probably continue to have deteriorating roads, and since regulation is also a dirty word, cell phones and internet will probably lag behind the developed world. You may have read the Canadian middle class is now ahead of the US in income—this despite higher taxes, universal health care and lots of regulations. Can we learn from them?

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Old 05-03-2014, 01:34 PM   #12
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You have roads which were built as toll roads, and incorporated into the interstate system, and you have the highway trust fund built free interstates. Currently, any state wanting to toll a free interstate would have to pay back all the federal funds used to build it. That provision has been debated, and a demonstration project or two have been proposed, with nothing yet advanced. Otherwise, both federal and state fuel taxes would have to rise just to maintain what is already built. Problem is, these taxes are per gallon set amounts, so inflation has diminished the purchase power for roads. If the taxes were a percentage of the fuel wholesale cost, then it would adjust for inflation. No politicians will go for either a percentage hike or a per gallon hike.
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Old 05-03-2014, 05:19 PM   #13
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I was in Canada several years back just as their currency was close to ours. I said to several Canadians that they would pass us by Christmas and never look back. My fear now is that France will pass us. As long as we continue to attempt to buy friends, at an ever increasing failing rate, nothing will improve on the home front.

As far as the poor not being able to afford toll roads I assume they will get a subsidy as they do with the cell phones and internet.
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Old 05-03-2014, 05:30 PM   #14
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Howie, 3 northern European countries have equaled our middle class—Netherlands, maybe Norway, not too clear on #3 at all.

All those countries have a strong safety net and help poor people get into a position where they can move up. Without a phone it is impossible to get a job, so giving people phones or subsidizing them helps get them free. It is pretty hard to get a job without the internet too. If people are homeless, it is even harder to get any job, so they need help too. It is the countries with universal health care, unemployment and food subsidies, help for housing, and other help for those who are poor, where the middle class is strongest.

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