Wyoming Plans to Toll Interstate 80

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) will kick off a week of “open house” meetings today to promote a proposal that would add tolls along the 400 miles of Interstate 80 that pass through the state. Unlike interstate tolling plans introduced in other parts of the country as “congestion reduction” measures, this one would not add new lane capacity. In a state with a population of just over a half-million, congestion is not even an issue after projecting population and traffic growth for another thirty years. WYDOT’s real target is out-of-state truck drivers.

Interstate 80 serves as a primary route for trucks hauling goods between Northern California and New Jersey. Wyoming’s share of the highway sees an average of just 12,920 vehicles per day. Trucks account for one-half of traffic, or a daily volume of 6,438. In absolute terms, the figure is lower than all other primary interstate routes. For example, an average of 10,000 trucks use Interstate 95 between Florida and Virginia on a daily basis along with another 62,000 automobiles. Still, Wyoming wants to hit the eighty percent of traffic that is just passing through the state.

“Federal interstate maintenance funding levels are currently insufficient to properly maintain the Wyoming span of I-80 due to high levels of truck traffic,” a WYDOT-funded tolling feasibility study stated. “The two approaches that merited further consideration from a financial feasibility perspective were truck-only toll lanes and tolling of all traffic on the existing capacity without any roadway expansion. These two approaches are politically challenging, but financially, have promise in solving WYDOT’s roadway maintenance funding dilemma.”

Under the current system, motorists pay an 18.4-cent federal tax and a 14-cent state tax for each gallon of gas sold in Wyoming. The tax is collected at the distributor level with very little overhead. For the $166 million in federal fuel and motoring taxes paid into the system in 2007, Wyoming received $238 million back in federal road funding. This 43-percent boost comes from populous “donor” states like California and Texas under the theory that the entire country benefits by subsidizing interstates in rural areas so that goods can travel coast-to-coast quickly and efficiently.

Wyoming currently does not use tolls on any of its roads, but WYDOT is betting that Congress this year will change the rules and eliminate restrictions on the tolling of interstate highways. WYDOT is mounting a public relations campaign to encourage the state legislature to act now.

“If Wyoming wishes to participate in future tolling opportunities allowed by the FHWA, it is critical to establish tolling legislation and organizational plans for a smooth implementation,” the report stated.

The study explained that, unlike in other states, there would be little sense in using the billions that would be raised on new lane construction. It also explained that other state departments of transportation believe that congestion on free roads can be wielded as an economic tool to force motorists to pay to use toll roads. Because this tool is unavailable in Wyoming, the plan depends upon motorist confusion and the threat of dangerous conditions to drive traffic onto the paid route.

“A parallel facility would be prohibitively expensive and congestion on the primary competing free road, I-80 is not sufficient to cause motorists to use the toll road,” the report concluded. “Diversion options are not likely to be considered cost effective by truckers unless the toll rate on I-80 was in excess of about $170, especially in winter months when these roads could be much more treacherous than I-80…. passenger cars traveling long distances or from out of state would not likely know an efficient route by which to divert around the tolling point.”

Using mapping software and computer modeling, the study calculated how many trucks and cars would divert to alternate surface street and freeway routes based on the added cost in time and fuel to do so. It concluded that the optimal toll rate of $116 per truck and $9.46 per car would generate $172 million in annual revenue and cut use of the road by half. That amount is far in excess of what it costs to run the road.

As a freeway, it costs just $13 million per year to run Wyoming’s stretch of Interstate 80. This amount includes $6.9 million for pavement maintenance, $4 million for snow removal and $2 million for miscellaneous costs such as trash removal and guardrail repair.

The overhead and equipment required to collect tolls nearly doubles the cost, adding $12 million to the annual bill. This amount includes $5 million for credit card transaction and toll processing fees, $2.3 million to deploy ten highway patrol officers toll violation ticket duty, $1.9 million for a courtesy patrol, $1.5 million in salaries for two dozen staff, $810,440 for office space and supplies, $591,590 to maintain the tolling equipment and $180,400 to pay the manager in charge of the project.

Under the full-price tolling plan, the state would generate $147 million in annual profit, which would grow to $550 million a year by 2030 thanks to regular toll increases. The study briefly mentioned that by indexing the existing 14 cent gas tax to the rate of inflation, the state would collect an extra $184 million over ten years without tolling.

The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 18 comments
  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jun 15, 2009
    If only these states would combine the no speed limit idea with high toll fees, Combined with road improvements to insure safety (provided you know how to drive), this could be great. The problem is, they are nto going to improve I80 so that speeds in excess of 100 mph could be safe. I would love to take my car up to its limit of 145 mph - it feels rock solid at 120, but I don't want to die (or get thrown in jail) trying. It seems that if Wyoming truly is having problems maintaining their roads due to heavy truck traffic, a truck only surcharge is the only fair solution. Charging a toll of x dollars just because that is what you calculate will bring the most money into the state coffers is real sleazy.
  • Benders Benders on Jun 15, 2009

    I drove I80 through WY last week but I came back on I90 (went to Grand Teton, Yellowstone). I actually thought I90 was a better route. Well, minus the hailstorm in SD. And both were very well maintained. Especially compared to the roads in northern IL.

  • TheEndlessEnigma Simply put, I like it.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Ah GM, never stop being you. GM is working hard to make FIAT look good.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Top Gear of the 2000's was a fresh concept and very well done. Sadly to say there isn't a TV show concept that doesn't eventually exhaust fresh ideas and, as a result, begins to rehash and wear out once were fresh ideas. The show eventually becomes a pale imitation of itself, then begins to embarrass itself, it will get to a point where it jumps the shark. Top Gear began to get stale, the Clarkson, Hammond and May left and the formula failed - surprise! the presenters were part of the magic. Fast forward many years and Grand Tower is trying hard to be Top Gear but it's all very obviously scripted (it always was by felt spontaneous in its original form), Clarkson, Hammond and May are much older, tired and have become caricatures of themselves. Guys, just stop. You should have stopped 10 years ago. Now you're just screwing with your reputations and legacies.
  • FreedMike Kudos to Toyota for making a legitimately slick looking piece (particularly in metallic cherry red). But PHEVs seem like a very narrow niche to me. Yes, the concept is cool - if you play your cards right you never have to fill up with gas, and the gas engine means you don't have to worry about charging facilities - but the operative words are "if you play your cards right." And PHEVs have all the drawbacks of EVs - spotty charging availability, decreased range in cold conditions, and higher price. Personally, I'd opt for a non plug-in Prius and use the plug-in money to upgrade the trim level. It's slower, but even the base Prius performs roughly on par with a Corolla or Civic, so it's not a dog anymore. But who buys a Prius to go fast in the first place? If I wanted to "go gas free," I'd just buy a BEV. YMMV, of course.
  • Analoggrotto Anyone seeking benchmark affluence will get the EV9 by Kia the most cutting edge electric vehicle on the market bar none.
Next