Objections to Tolling Only Tell Half the Story
In his recent State of the State address, the governor mentioned the need to keep Missouri’s roads in good shape. Show-Me Institute analysts have written about ways to generate adequate funding for quality roads, such as highway tolling or raising the fuel tax.
These policies have been implemented successfully in many states, but in this post I’ll address some objections to these policies and see if they hold water.
Objection: We shouldn’t toll commercial trucks because the trucking companies will pass those costs along to the people buying their products.
Part of the price of a product is the cost it takes to transport the product somewhere. If trucks carrying products are causing more damage than they’re paying to repair, then underpaying for the products’ transport is in effect subsidizing it. Any tolling costs passed on to customers would be less overcharging for a product and more reflecting its true price.
Objection: Tolling is unfair to local communities near interstates that depend on highway traffic for their customers.
As my colleague Graham Renz has said before, this is another way of saying that communities near toll roads will not be subsidized. Not paying the true cost of driving means that some businesses benefit from more drivers due to an artificially low cost of driving.
Tolling may mean that traffic on these routes decreases, but adequately charging drivers for the damage they do to the roads can hardly be described as unfair. Moreover, the current situation of Missourians who do not live near interstates subsidizing the travel that benefits communities near interstates hardly seems like a fair proposition.
Ultimately, while these two objections may initially seem like they raise serious problems for tolling proposals, they only tell half the story. The benefits of tolling still outweigh the costs, so tolling should be on the table as an option for funding road maintenance needs.