Tennessee Toll Roads?

SB1152, the "Tennessee Tollway Act," is making its way through the legislative maze, though ultimate passage is not at all certain at this point.  The Tennessean reports a delay, with Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) concerned that the Legislature needs final approval of where such toll roads might be built.

NIMBY?  Maybe.  In fairness, I didn’t hear his argument, but legislative approval is not needed on other road projects, so it sounds a little bit like he may want to ensure that there are no toll roads to affect HIS constituents — just others.

I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience with toll roads, but what little I have hasn’t been bad.  All in all, the toll routes I’ve driven tend to be less crowded, well-maintained, and — best of all — speed limit enforcement is minimal.  It’s a benefit of paying your fees up front for the privilege of getting where you’re going a little easier.  My only complaint has been when the only exits are run by concessions (Florida comes to mind), so gas prices (along with food, beverages, and whatever else is sold) tend to be higher because there’s no competition.  It’s very much like McDonald’s prices in an airport are a lot different than the McDonald’s out on the street, and I have a problem with that.

With gas prices still lingering at uncomfortable highs, most politicians are loathe to raise the gas tax — the traditional source of highway funds.  Stateline.org writes that, despite the growing popularity of toll roads, it can’t fill the $11B gap between available funding and planned projects.

A toll booth on the Herman Postma Memorial Bridge (Solway) might go a fair ways toward resolving Oak Ridge’s financial concerns, but that’s not likely even if this bill passes.  However, I don’t feel any strong opposition toward the idea of toll roads; it seems like a reasonable user fee, so long as it’s not overdone.

What do you think?

14 Responses to “Tennessee Toll Roads?”

  1. on 27 Apr 2007 at 7:25 am daco

    I lived in Jacksonville Fla. for 8 years. The place us just silly with toll bridges. At on point, when I lived on the west side of town and worked at the beach, (On the east coast, the beach would be on the east side of town…for you COR readers) I would have to pay two tolls each way.
    Those toll booths were originally put in place to pay for the bridges, but as with any government tax…once in place it is never removed.
    I am totally opposed to toll bridges or roads.

  2. on 27 Apr 2007 at 7:28 am Jacket

    On 4-17-2007 in a discussion with my legislators it was stated the reason for his proposal is the cutting of Federal highway funding. Many new road projects have been cut due to the loss of Federal highway funds. Some pending road projects have also been cut or put on hold for this reason. The reason they were given is the funding for such projects have been diverted to other areas. That other area is; yes, you guessed it, Iraq. More an more Federal funds appear to be going toward this effort, and yet a deficit is still being built also.

    This is just another example of how federalism can cause a hidden tax increase. When a higher level of government decreases funding to the lower level, that decrease must be made up somewhere to continue to fund ongoing and unfinished projects, in this case bridges and roadways. That funding is found through taxation or user fees such as toll roads.

    This is not unsimilar to the cut in State funding back to counties of the State sales tax in the first term of Bredesen when it caused a major shortfall in county budgets that required tax increases in several counties.

    It is a shame, we are building roads and infrastructure in Iraq just to have them bombed and in the State of Tennessee we have to discusse toll roads for the first time in over 70 years. Up until now all road projects were paid for on a pay as you go basis. That appears to be going away.

  3. on 27 Apr 2007 at 7:35 am LissaKay

    The other day, while I sat in bumper to bumper traffic all the way through Solway, I wondered how in the world it could possibly get worse. Now I know …

  4. on 27 Apr 2007 at 7:44 am Joel

    I’m not a fan of toll roads and bridges. But I am a supporter of public transportation. Opponents of public transportation always complain about the state subsidy necessary to maintain public transportation, without acknowledging the subsidy that drivers enjoy in the form of tax-supported roads, bridges, drainage lighting and public safety. Maybe toll roads will bring the actual costs of driving home to the average driver (bus and light rail riders pay a ‘toll’ every time they ride) and help him/her understand that private automobile usage is also tax-subsidized.

  5. on 27 Apr 2007 at 8:29 am AT

    I second the public transportation idea.

  6. on 27 Apr 2007 at 10:08 am Jacket

    Public transportation solves several problems (energy, pollution, traffic congestion) and yes doc, what is paid on this form of transportation should be considered a toll.

  7. on 28 Apr 2007 at 12:31 pm daco

    I completely agree that public transportation is a great idea where and when practical, don’t think for one minute that we don’t already pay a “toll” for the use of both state and federal roads. Currently the federal gas tax is $.184 and the tennessee state gas tax is $.214. That’s a total of 39.8 cents per gallon.
    I’m not complaining about the gas tax. It is necessary. It is also a use tax. Why ad another?

  8. on 28 Apr 2007 at 3:31 pm Joel

    Uh, because the gas tax isn’t enough to cover the costs of roads and bridges? Just a guess.

  9. on 28 Apr 2007 at 4:47 pm daco

    Joel to some, present company included apparently, existing taxes are never enough. My points is that gasoline taxes are a form of use tax for highways. If they aren’t high enough to cover the cost of road work…here’s a guess…raise them.

  10. on 28 Apr 2007 at 6:52 pm Jacket

    “Why ad another?”
    Ok, you didn’t “buy” Joel’s guess.

    How about “not enough” combined with diverted to other uses and it not coming to the State as described above. “Currently the federal gas tax is $.184” and that money has been removed from coming to the State, thus the Stat is losing that share of the money. Shortfall’s are always made up at the next level, see above.

  11. on 28 Apr 2007 at 9:54 pm daco

    Okay you’re both right. Shortfalls must be made up somehow. Toll roads, IMO, aren’t the way to do it. I would much rather have an increase to the gas tax than have to purchase toll passes or throw a damn quarter in a basket when I cross a bridge.
    Like I said up thread, I’ve done it and it sucks.

  12. on 29 Apr 2007 at 1:22 pm Jacket

    I don’t like the idea either. However, increasing the gas tax and such is also not the answer.

    Maybe we need to reevaluate the budget and cut some other funding. Buy where? I could really start with a few suggestions but those with the power that be haven’t asked, and it would only be a start. No where near a solution to the total problem.

  13. on 29 Apr 2007 at 4:31 pm daco

    Don’t you worry mate. When we elect you king you can make any changes you like….and we will love you for it.

  14. on 30 Apr 2007 at 7:46 am Jacket

    Will needs some assistance on that king thing. Don’t really want to be king though. I would prefer sublime dictator or benevolent dictator.

    Still I know of a few cuts of several departments that are “top heavy” but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the several billion that will be needed. Any other suggestions?

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