The gas tax seems to be running on fumes at a time when the nation’s aging infrastructure is in need of a fuel injection.
A recent Gallup poll indicated that many Americans were against raising the gas tax. However, an America THINKS survey from HNTB Corp. shows that millions of Americans are aware there is a congestion problem, and many are willing to back tolls that enhance, repair or construct roads. With these fees, however, come higher expectations for the facilities, including better driving conditions and cleanliness.
“As our nation’s population continues to grow, so will its traffic troubles if we don’t address the long-term decline of the gas tax,” said Jim Ely, HNTB vice chair of toll services. The confluence of shrinking traditional transportation funding, increasing congestion and advancements in tolling technology is opening up vast opportunities for market-driven and choice-based user financed transportation.”
In fact, more than 3 in 5 (63%) of Americans feel the nation can no longer build its way out of traffic congestion. And more than 7 in 10 (71%) of drivers would be willing to pay a higher toll fare on a road or highway in order to save travel time.
And, when presented with a choice between tolls and other forms of transportation funding, such as higher gas taxes, property and sales taxes over the next 10 years, more than 4 in 10 (43%) of Americans would be most willing to back more tolls rather than these other forms of additional funding to maintain existing roads, bridges and tunnels in their area, as well as build new ones.
Among the nation’s drivers, more than 8 in 10 (86%) are willing to pay tolls. With that price of admission comes an expectation of better driving conditions. In fact, more than 9 in 10 Americans (93%) expect tolled roads to be better than non-tolled roads.
Drivers willing to pay tolls most often cited faster travel times (59%), lanes with less traffic (52%) and higher-quality roads (52%) as reasons to make the choice.
“Historically tolls have played an important role in the development of the nation’s interstate commerce, along with its highways,” said Ely. “Modern technology now allows us to do away with traditional tollbooths, allowing transactions at highway speeds while opening up vast opportunities for pricing strategies that help reduce congestion.”
In fact, the surveyed showed almost 3 in 4 (73%) of drivers would rather have a transponder – a device in their car that allows them to pay tolls at highway speed without stopping – rather than the traditional method of halting at tollbooths to pay.
Ely said some toll facilities, including the Golden Gate Bridge in California just last month, are doing away with tollbooths completely and moving to all-electronic tolling. According to the survey, a majority of Americans see all-electronic tolling as providing time savings (62%), convenience (60%) and safety (56%).
Tolls are favored as a funding method over higher gas taxes or simply eliminating funding for major bridges (61%), vehicle travel across international borders (59%), tunnels (58%), vehicle travels across state borders (52%), interstate highways (50%) and state highways (46%).
Seven in 10 Americans (70%) believe their state department of transportation should have the option to add tolls to major structures to keep them in good shape. In addition, 8 in 10 Americans (80%) agree their state department of transportation should have the option to enter into agreements with private companies and investors to provide additional long-term funding to build, expand, operate and maintain needed roads, bridges and tunnels.