Tolling I-70: A Semi-Solution to MoDOT’s Funding Problems
With the defeat of Amendment 7, officials are looking for ways to fund Missouri’s highway system. MoDOT needs adequate funding, not only to maintain existing highways, but also to fund future multibillion-dollar projects, principal among these is the reconstruction of I-70. One possible solution is to introduce tolls on I-70, which would allow those who benefit from the highway to pay for its improvement.
Those who directly benefit from I-70 are drivers, especially from companies that own commercial vehicles (interstate trucks). According to MoDOT, at least 25 percent of the traffic on I-70 is attributable to commercial vehicles (more than two axles). These vehicles also make up much of I-70’s cross-state traffic, with 70 percent of commercial vehicles passing straight through Missouri. If the state would toll I-70, both passenger and commercial vehicles would pay to use the interstate based on their size and distance traveled. In other states, commercial vehicles typically pay four to five times more than passenger vehicles. They pay extra to compensate for the extra damage they cause to the roadway. In fact, toll roads in other states generate much, if not most, of their revenue from commercial vehicles.
|Toll Road System||commercial vehicles as a % of total vehicles||% miles on road from commercial vehicles||% of toll revenue from commercial vehicles|
|New York Thruway||11.02%||15.59%||47.10%|
|North Texas Tollway System||1.87%||–||22.39%|
|Florida Turnpike System||3.95%||5.06%||19.12%|
If Missourians decide to rebuild I-70 using toll revenue, it is likely that much, or even most, of that revenue would come from commercial vehicles. That’s a fair solution, because commercial trucking entities cause the most wear on highways and benefit the most from good roads. In fact, a well-maintained highway saves trucking companies money, because it reduces delays and vehicle damage. The failure of Amendment 7 doesn’t mean that Missourians want bad roads; it means they want good roads paid for in a sensible way. A sound tolling solution would allow drivers and interstate truckers alike to invest in the highway from which they so benefit.