As if high gas prices and a looming recession werent enough, many states are now looking at dramatically raising tolls, in a bid to replenish their diminishing coffers. Not surprisingly, sinking housing markets and the credit crunch have hurt government treasuries as well as individuals.
Big toll hikes are planned for most of the nation's signature toll roads, bridges and tunnels, on the order of dollars, not cents, according to USA Today. For example, on the iconic George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey -- the nation's busiest toll bridge - tolls will surge to $8 from $5 during peak time. Truckers will pay a whopping $35, up from $25. The Holland and Lincoln tunnels will see rates raised $2-$10 per trip on March 2.
Rate changes will be similar across much of the rest of the country. California's picturesque Golden Gate Bridge will likely raise its toll to $6 from $5, while San Francisco mulls over an additional $2 toll when drivers get off the bridge. In the Midwest the cost of driving the Indiana Toll Road will balloon from $8 from $4.65, although those with electronic i-Zoom accounts will not be affected.
Tolls will also rise in Boston, across New Jersey (50% every four years, starting in 2010), and Pennsylvania, where officials are asking for persmission to add tolls to Interstate 80 for the first time.
Tolls are often considered political suicide because motorists hate them, and voters remember them when going into elections. Everyone tends to like politicians that eliminate them. But tolls actually have very strong environmental benefits.
Studies have shown that higher tolls really do discourage people from taking unnecessary trips. They do encourage people to combine trips, carpool and think twice about simply joyriding. Tolls that are priced based on peak times have been shown to decrease congestion, and therefore air pollution.
Driving continues to be over subsidized in this country when you consider the big incentives given to fossil fuel industries, the auto industry, and the vast road infrastructure. Public transit has received a fraction of taxpayer support, and yet packs many green benefits. Evening out the playing field is a good thing, even if the growing pains are difficult.
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