Utah tries to use its death grip on Ariz. tolling plan

FHWA, however, will make the final determination

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Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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Arizona is considering tolling a strip of I-15, so who really cares what the state of Utah thinks?

However, just to keep things interesting, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tore into the idea of charging on the interstate route—and he did so more than once.

“I strongly oppose any plans to levy tolls on Arizona’s portion of 15 or any portion of I-15,” Herbert said in a statement.

The Utah general then repeated his disgust at a news conference, saying the tolls was a way of “Arizona just trying to find dollars wherever they can because their budget is so upside-down.”

Well, Gov. Herbert, you can hold yourself upside-down in protest until Arizona changes its mind, but I would not recommend it—and I doubt you would last an hour anyway. The Federal Highway Administration, which can be a little backward, will decide which state will receive the final right to toll a portion of the interstate system. Pennsylvania was the latest challenger, but lost a chance to charge on I-80 because the FHWA believed the money collected from the tolls would not be used solely on the maintenance of the corridor.

I believe the stretch of Arizona’s I-15 is one of the most scenic—and from the roadbuilder’s perspective challenging—in the U.S. If the FHWA believes money will be used in the right way, then it just might allow the tolling. And whatever annual dollar amount is pulled will most likely be used on I-15—not to balance a budget, Gov. Herbert.

The FHWA has been holding on to that final interstate tolling slot with a grip equal to that of Superman’s. It is not going to let go very easily. So, Gov. Herbert, let the federal government do its due diligence here—and just let go.

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