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Tolling Points

Make a Toll Road a Part of Your Fourth of July Driving Plan

By: 
Bill Cramer

With Americans taking to the roads for the Fourth of July weekend, IBTTA’s 2015 Report on Tolling in the U.S. shows more and more of us relying on toll roads to get where we’re going.

Drivers took 5.7 billion trips last year on toll roads in 34 states, a 14% increase over the last four years. And the 37 million electronic tolling accounts across the country represented a 20% increase in five years.

“Throughout this summer’s driving season, more reliable trip times and overall improved mobility provided by well-maintained and well-designed toll roads are providing drivers the premium benefits they seek,” said IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones in a release this week.

When Every Minute Counts

Outside the summer months, tolling agencies hear from drivers who rely on toll roads to get to work on time, pick their kids up from day care at the end of the day, or deliver the just-in-time products that keep our economy strong.

But when a vacation only lasts a few short days or a week or two, one does not want to spend that time idling on the highway.

The Chesapeake Expressway in southeastern Virginia is an example that proves the rule. Before it opened in 2001, vacation travelers to the Outer Banks in North Carolina could lose four or five hours in traffic on the road to and from their rented cottages. Summer weekend delays were the stuff of legend, and the congestion had become a threat to public safety.

The four-lane Expressway was financed without tax dollars, using a loan from the Virginia Department of Transportation and toll revenue bonds that will be paid off in 2047. The road opened with a toll of $2.00 in each direction, and the rate increased to $3.00 in 2011, with a peak of $6.00 on summer weekends. Regular users can buy a $40.00 annual pass that gets them a 75¢ rate at the toll plaza.

Now, when visitors make their way to the Outer Banks, they have a choice: if they want to bypass the toll, they can take their chances with stop-and-go traffic on the local road. But the Expressway’s strong revenue history shows that even a $6.00 toll is a small price to pay for visitors who know their holiday visit will end all too soon.

A Point of Light

The 2015 Report on Tolling in the U.S. also contains reassuring news for anyone who wants to drive safely: the fatality rate of all U.S. roads, at 1.47 per 100 million vehicle miles travelled, is three times higher than the rate on toll facilities. That’s partly because most toll roads are operated centrally, 24 hours a day, from modern operations centers linked to dedicated maintenance, emergency response and police services.

The Report on Tolling is an encouraging point of light at a time when legislators across the U.S. are scrambling to fund safe, reliable highways. So when you pack your car for the Fourth of July weekend—make sure there’s enough ice in the cooler, check your tire pressure, pack your emergency kit, and don’t forget the toll road map. If you want a safe, relaxed ride and an on-time arrival, America’s toll roads, bridges and tunnels provide great value.

For more on highway solutions, click here to learn about IBTTA’s Moving America Forward campaign.

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