Feds Exploring Tolls on Interstates

Darryl Duncan says he’s not a big fan of toll roads to begin with and tries to avoid them as much as possible here in North Texas. That’s why he’s not too keen on a new proposal from the federal government that could open the door for tolls on interstates.

“It’s just another way to get money out of my pocket,” said Duncan, who lives in Fort Worth.

Current federal laws prohibit tolls on most interstates across the country. However, as part of its “Grow America” bill, the U.S. Department of Transportation laid out a plan this week to ease those restrictions and allow states to collect tolls on interstates should they choose. That money would then be used to help states repair and replace those highways.

The agency says the Highway Trust Fund that currently helps to pay for interstate maintenance will dry up by August, so it wants to give states additional options to help cover those costs.

Driver Charles Harris says if toll plazas were to pop up on interstates in Texas, he’d look for other options to get where he’s going.

“I would try my best to dodge them,” said Harris, who lives in Fort Worth. “But as soon as you’re short of time or you don’t feel like dipping and ducking through all the other places, you’re going to get on the interstate. And you’ll have to pay.”

Local transportation expert Michael Morris says Texas faces all kinds of challenges keeping up with its transportation needs, and additional money to fix our aging infrastructure is badly needed.

“Take the capacity additions out of the equation,” said Morris, who is the Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “Just to maintain the current infrastructure, we took almost every nickel we had to redo the Downtown Interstate 35E project, for example, and the Interstate 30 bridges.”

He says the state has tried to cover those costs by charging tolls on new state highways and express lanes. However, he thinks it’s highly unlikely you’d see tolls pop up on existing highways that are currently free for drivers, even if this new proposal is passed.

“I don’t see our state or our local policy officials endorsing that concept,” said Morris.

TxDOT echoed those feelings in a statement to NBC 5. It wrote:

“TxDot is prohibited under state law from imposing tolling on existing interstates – the Grow America Bill would not change that. TxDOT is committed to reducing congestion and improving mobility within the confines of state law.”

Congress would have to approve the plan before it could take effect.

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