Thanks to Gov. Eric Holcomb, any plan to collect tolls on more Indiana highways is dead for now. But as any good lawmaker should, he didn’t close the door on the idea that tolling may make sense at some time in the future to help fund the state’s infrastructure needs.
His reasoning was based on the lack of need to get deeper in the tolling business at this time. He said in a letter to a consulting firm commissioned to study the tolling idea that the state has a good plan to invest in road and bridge improvements, and will be receiving about $800 million more from the company managing the northern Indiana toll road after a contract was renegotiated.
As with most policy issues, studies both support and reject the efficiency, fairness and effectiveness of toll roads. It’s difficult to find studies, however, that dispute the notion that few have an appetite for putting tolls on current interstate highways, thus turning freeways (emphasis on free) into toll roads.
Interestingly, a study from the National Academy of Sciences estimates that about one-third of the revenues brought in from building, maintaining and staffing toll facilities are spent on administrative costs, compared to about 1 percent in administering a fuel tax. The Indiana plan called for electronic tolling, which is more efficient but can still gouge out 12 to 20 percent of revenue for operation, according the same source.
New funding methods must be considered to pay for aging infrastructure, but the governor’s correct to say no to tolling.