Thursday, March 29, 2007

Toll Roads: A Tiny Patch for a Massive Blowout

We see this morning that Governor Bredesen is flirting with the idea of toll roads in Tennessee, in spite of the fact that toll road revenues will fall far short of paying for the growing problem of our deteriorating transportation infrastructure. Tolling would only feasibly increase to 9% of highway funds over the next decade. That hardly makes the Guv's idea as "sound" and "sensible" as he claims.

The highway systems are deteriorating due to use and the inability of public funding to keep up with increased driver demand (or more accurately, load). If drivers want their well-maintained highways the real answer lies in generating higher levels of revenue:
the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, last raised 14 years ago, would have to go up at least 3 cents by 2009 and 7 cents more by 2015 just to maintain the current [national] highway system and keep pace with the fast-rising cost of roads.
We can assume that paying for Tennessee's dependence on highways would mirror the national trend.

And, quite frankly, the boon of trying to stretch the small patch of toll roads across a gaping shortage of infrastructure funding is just another means of goverment subsidizing businesses. The tolling industry has high growth potential in this time of higher transportation demands and increasing interest-group pressure to stop any and all public financing to meet those demands. This industry has its own on-line newsletter. I also wonder what kind of lobby this industry has here in Nashville on the hill.

If the Guv is seriously contemplating toll roads, he's merely showing co-dependence on the national denial of the true problem of our highways and roads: a shortage of revenues to fix our retrograde infrastructure and to match driver demands. If we want something nice, we have to pay for it. If we don't want to pay for it, then there are lots of enterprising vultures ready to swoop in and collect the proceeds from our demands without fixing the problem.

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