Seventy-nine percent of U.S. residents would support increasing the use of tolls on the nation’s roads to help for new transportation projects, according to a poll Thursday by an infrastructure group. The survey, which was conducted by HNTB Corp., found 79 percent of U.S. residents “would support the addition of a toll on a non-tolled surface transportation facility if it resulted in a safer, congestion-free and more reliable trip.”
The poll found 83 percent of its respondents would also support tolls on highways that are currently free, which has been a source of contentious debate in Washington. HNTB Toll Services Chairman Jim Ely said the finding bolstered the argument of tolling advocates that federal rules limiting them to new highway lanes should be revisited in the next transportation funding debate.
Advocates argued that tolls could been used to help pay for a longer transportation spending measure by helping to close a shortfall in federal infrastructure funding that is estimated to be as high as $16 billion per year. However, the anti-tolling Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) disputed the support for expanding tolling in the U.S. was as high as the HNTB poll found, pointing to other surveys that have painted a more muddled picture of public opinion on the topic. “It is not surprising that the results of a poll commissioned by a road building outfit that bills itself as a top ‘consultant to toll authorities’ would produce pro-tolling results,” the anti-tolling group said in a statement.
Tolling groups in D.C. were encouraged when President Obama included language that would lift the current ban on states placing tolls on existing highway lanes in his proposal for a four-year, $302 billion bill that was dubbed the Grow America Act. Obama’s proposal would allow states to apply to the Department of Transportation for approval to install additional tolls on existing roads. Present law requires states to construct new lanes on highways that they want to toll, with the exception of pilot programs in states including Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri.