With the defeat of Amendment 7 in the August primary, officials are looking for ways to fund Missouri’s highway system.
The Missouri Department of Transportation needs adequate funding, not only to maintain existing highways, but also to fund future multibillion-dollar projects, principal among these the reconstruction of Interstate 70.
One possible solution is to introduce tolls on I-70, which would allow those who benefit from the highway to pay for its improvement.
Those who directly benefit from I-70 are drivers, especially from companies that own commercial vehicles (interstate trucks).
According to MoDOT, at least 25 percent of the traffic on I-70 is attributable to commercial vehicles (more than two axles). These vehicles also make up much of I-70’s cross-state traffic, with 70 percent of commercial vehicles passing straight through Missouri.
If the state would toll I-70, both passenger and commercial vehicles would pay to use the interstate based on their size and distance traveled. In other states, commercial vehicles typically pay four to five times more than passenger vehicles.
They pay more to compensate for the extra damage they cause to the roadway. In fact, toll roads in other states generate much, if not most, of their revenue from commercial vehicles.
Here are examples of U.S. toll roads:
- 20 percent commercial vehicles as a percentage of total vehicles
- 33 percent miles on road from commercial vehicles
- 55.7 percent of toll revenue from commercial vehicles
- 12.88 percent commercial vehicles as a percentage of total vehicles
- 20 percent miles on road from commercial vehicles
- 42.6 percent of toll revenue from commercial vehicles
- 11.6 percent commercial vehicles as a percentage of total vehicles
- 17.8 percent miles on road from commercial vehicles
- 36.9 percent of toll revenue from commercial vehicles
If Missourians decide to rebuild I-70 using toll revenue, it is likely that much, or even most, of that revenue would come from commercial vehicles. That’s a fair solution, because commercial trucking entities cause the most wear on highways and benefit the most from good roads.
In fact, a well-maintained highway saves trucking companies money because it reduces delays and vehicle damage. The failure of Amendment 7 doesn’t mean that Missourians want bad roads; it means they want good roads paid for in a sensible way.
A sound tolling solution would allow drivers and interstate truckers alike to invest in the highway from which they so benefit.
Joseph Miller blogs for the Show-Me Institute, which promotes market solutions for Missouri public policy.