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Tolling Points

Americans Want Better Roads. And They’re Ready to Pay for Them.

By: 
Bill Cramer

Nearly three-quarters of Americans are willing to pay more for the transportation system they need and want, and the people in the biggest single group of survey respondents are satisfied to have drivers pay tolls or user fees for the specific roads they use, according to the latest analysis in HNTB Corporation’s America Thinks series.

“Americans place a high value on mobility and recognize the need to fund their share of the costs through higher taxes or tolls to help reduce congestion,” said Kevin Hoeflich, PE, HNTB Toll Services Chair, in a mid-October release.

“As a nation, we need to explore every available alternative to provide a reliable and long-term source of revenue to build a world-class transportation network.”

For years, HNTB’s research series has been a steady source of smart insights on surface transportation and tolling. This latest survey comes at a time when public opinion in the U.S. and many other countries is swinging in favor of the safety, reliability, congestion relief, and reduced smog and carbon pollution that a user-funded highway system can deliver. And more and more elected officials are beginning to hear from their constituents.

Frustrated with Congestion and Willing to Pay

With congestion in America continuing to worsen, the research shows that roadway users are getting frustrated—and frustrated enough to do something about it.

“Congestion on America’s roads and highways continues to grow,” and “Americans report congestion is noticeably worse today than just one year ago,” states the two-page, graphic-heavy research summary. “They know improvements to our transportation infrastructure will help reduce congestion. They know funding is needed to pay for those improvements. And, they are willing to pay higher taxes and tolls to build and maintain a high-quality, reliable and sustainable transportation system.”

The survey found that 61% of respondents felt traffic bottlenecks had worsened, 37% said their roads were about the same, and 2% saw less congestion year over year. And an astonishing 79% “are willing to pay tolls to avoid congestion and have predictable travel times, even when free alternatives are available.”

Paying for the Roads We Need

The survey also captures Americans’ ringing endorsement of the simple logic that there are no free roads (nor “free” anything else)—if you want something to work, you have to fund it and pay for it.

Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents—73%—were willing to pay tolls or higher taxes for highway infrastructure improvements. Within that group, 46% of the total survey populations supported tolling and other fees, making user financing the most-favored option in the survey.

“Our infrastructure network, stretched beyond capacity and in dire need of significant improvement, is a major contributor to congestion. This research tells us 95% of Americans feel a high-quality, reliable and sustainable transportation system is needed for economic prosperity and a desirable quality of life.”

Let’s get this industry’s message out far and wide! Mark your calendar for the IBTTA Communications Summit, July 28-30, 2019 in Seattle.