General Question

Aster's avatar

Does the new proposal by the US administration matter to you?

Asked by Aster (15834 points ) May 1st, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/us/white-house-wants-to-lift-ban-on-interstate-tolls.html?_r=0

Looks like all highways would change into toll roads to “raise money.”

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41 Answers

hearkat's avatar

Yes, it matters to me. I have the option to take a toll road or a state highway to the interstate to work every day. I opt for the free route, which takes a few minutes longer, but is free.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Since it involves new spending (on infrastructure! the horror!) republicans will never give it the time of day, so I don’t really care.

Cruiser's avatar

For over 50 years other administrations have been able to fund highway projects with existing Federal Revenues and IMO this only serves to further highlight the failures of this President’s fiscal policies.

bolwerk's avatar

Good, maybe highways will finally start paying for themselves.

Sadly, it probably won’t go far enough.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Cruiser “For over 50 years other administrations have been able to fund highway projects with existing Federal Revenues”

As evidenced by the impeccable state of our infrastructure.

johnpowell's avatar

I don’t care since I don’t drive. But tolls seem like a bit of a waste that will probably hurt poor people more. It seems more efficient to just raise the gas taxes and avoid all the waste that would be needed to create toll roads at least on the west coast. I know they are common in the east but I have never seen one in the west (bridges excluded).

bolwerk's avatar

@johnpowell: the advantage with tolls is they create a price signal for users. Modern smart tolls don’t even require the high labor of traditional tolls, so the proceeds can focus entirely on maintenance and capital construction.

johnpowell's avatar

@bolwerk :: My problem is that the poor often have to travel further for work at least in urban areas. Where I lived in Portland a Adidas HQ moved in a few blocks away. We were given notice and had a month to move since wealthy white folks were moving in. The neighborhood was primarily African American. Our house was torn down for condos. But most of the people that had to move still worked in the neighborhood and had to resort to massive commutes.

So yeah, gentrification.

bolwerk's avatar

@johnpowell: often, but probably not more often than wealthier people. And a lot of that would be solved with expansive public transportation policy.

Meanwhile, congestion hurts poor people in urban areas too. High traffic volumes (partly caused by no price signal) encourage delays, and increases the cost of delivering goods and essential services to them. It also has health consequences, even for non-drivers.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m ok with tolls only as long as they are cost recovery and the state and local taxes that used to pay for them are reduced accordingly. Also no B.S. tickets at them either.

jerv's avatar

Three quarters of my commute is on the interstate, so this could screw me over.

@Cruiser Try drive around Seattle. Like across that interstate bridge that fell into the river. Then tell me how well-funded they are.And it’s not a new thing either; it’s been an issue for decades.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It matters a great deal, but it’s merely another in the long and growing list of burdens and fees destined to drive up living expenses as governments scramble for revenue. Municipal, county and state governments are rushing to extort money from a citizenry already picked clean by everything from extortionary parking tickets to pet licensing schemes. So where is the money that used to cover such things as maintaining the nation’s infrastructure? Why are auto license and gasoline tax fees no longer sufficient to repair and update the roads? It’s simple. The stock market’s going through the roof. The mansions are stuffed to the bursting point from all the money that’s been flowing uphill. Plain and simple, the load is being shifted, and the freeloaders involved are not Mr. Romney’s now infamous 41%.

bolwerk's avatar

Gasoline tax fees were never sufficient to pay for the highway system, much less the wider road system (which is bigger probably by a factor of between 4 and 8). And license fees and the like probably are barely sufficient to pay for DMV administration.

Really, all this means is that more efficient modes like trains, buses, and biking will start looking more attractive. People will adjust.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@bolwerk In my state the gas taxes are the highest in the region AND the roads are in need of a lot of work. The money from gas taxes has been diverted to the General Fund, not to upkeep of roadways and bridges. They have started add toll roads and surprise – - SURPRISE. The money is not going to maintaining the new roadways.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Tropical_Willie That’s why most people hate them. It’s kind of like whenever a new tax comes along it is always for “education” yet the schools still never seem to have any money.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk Check out the mass transit system in rural areas. Try biking 40 miles each way. Yeah….

For those reasons, if this is an attempt to make more efficient transportation options look good, then government is even stupider than it’s harshest critics think.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me They are looking into a flat tax for all motor vehicles, they just figured out that Hybrid and Battery autos don’t use gas ( taxes ) as the SUV’s and other autos.

bolwerk's avatar

@Tropical_Willie: depending where you are, the general fund is what pays for a lot of your roads anyway. Gasoline taxes target certain highways, which could conceivably have a surplus (not to be confused with a state of good repair), meaning some is transferred to the general fund to bolster the non-gas tax funded ones. Road financing is…confusing, but inadequate.

@jerv: huh? Urban areas account for something like 80% of the U.S. population already. If people want to live in rural areas, they have no reason to expect such amenities. Though they shouldn’t expect their transportation, which is the most expensive to provide, to have priority either.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk 80%? Wrong, but thank you for playing. Unless you’re using a different definition of “urban”.

Also note that even in a metroplex, it’s not that simple because there are certain routes that exist only by private vehicle, while others don’t run on any schedule that allows for continued employment. And turning a 45 minute drive into 3 hours of bussing (not including the 5 hours of waiting) is far from feasible. By your logic, much of Seattle is rural and therefore not entitled to any catering or amenities. Never mind us poor bastards who work outside the metroplex because not all jobs are retail or white-collar.

jerv's avatar

Average commute distance. Look at the breakdown.

bolwerk's avatar

@jerv: no need to be obnoxious, especially wildly (deliberately?) misinterpreting what I said. “Urban areas” was a very deliberate choice of words, referring to core cities and the settlements surrounding them and to smaller urban settlements (say a Great Plains settlement with a few thousand or even hundred people near no other major city would still urban, but not metropolitan); this is a pretty widely understood term in urban planning circles. But the U.S. Census actually defines ’‘urban’’ the way I used “urban area” for some reason. They use the term “urbanized areas” to discuss larger urban metro areas, which contain about ~70% of the population, and maybe was what you were thinking about. Disconnected smaller settlements would still be called “urban,” but would not be an “urbanized area” by Census logic. Metroplexes (metroplexii?) are rather narrow term concerning larger metros with multiple anchors. Maybe San Francisco-Berkeley would be a USA example.

And you’re injecting a lot of bizarre preconceptions into what I said. Just because there will be some probably inevitable at this point modal shift doesn’t mean cars are going away or 45-minute commutes will become 3-hour bus trips. Though I would say perhaps Midwestern subdivisions are a good object lesson in what other middle class exurbs will look like in a few decades around the rest of the country, at least those not owned and maintained by the 1%.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk So it was terminology. Sorry for being snappy, but that means that where I live both is and isn’t “urban”,and also makes some rather charitable assumptions about mass transit. Technically, where I used to live would be “urban” as well, but only had 1 bus that came by every hour between 7am and 6pm on a route far from my home or job. As for where I am now, I might PM you about it, but won’t share those details publicly. Suffice it to say that I know few people for whom public transit is feasible unless they want to be unemployed.

Decades of varied personal experience is not “bizarre preconceptions” unless you’re saying my life is and always has been stranger than fiction.

Cruiser's avatar

To all that believe that failing infrastructure is sufficient evidence to support a sudden drum beat for an interstate toll system is admitting how f’n ignorant you are to the entire problem at hand. Corruption, waste, regulation and piss poor mismanagement is the problem. I have spent the last 30 years of my life intimately connected with the DOT and the Federal Highway Administration…and ANYONE who just feels more taxes is the answer is F’N CLUELESS. You have no idea how inept and corrupt the entire Federal and State highway program is. Chicago and Illinois is the poster child for how major corporations control and dictate the “pay to play” policies that control the awarding of highway road projects. NOTHING will improve or alleviate the problems we as taxpayers face until WE standup and vote these morons out of office and get people in office that will ignore the temptation of corporate influence and do the job we expect them to do.

10 years ago I was under a bridge with a DOT inspector who told me just how F’d up things were and that because of how deteriorated the bridge was he didn’t dare drive on it while rush hour traffic roared above our heads.

Go ahead raise taxes and then bury your heads in the sand because these idiots in office have only their interests and their corporate sponsors at heart.

turtlesandbox's avatar

I have not traveled on an interstate highway for at least four years, so it does not matter to me.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Cruiser

Who, exactly, used the failing infrastructure as a drum beat for an Interstate toll system? Oh yeah, no one. The failing infrastructure example was only to counter your “f’n ignorant” notion that other administrations have been able to fund things just fine, or that this is highlights the failures of the current administration’s fiscal problem.

I mean I suppose you could ignore critical issues with your house for years and claim that you’re handling it fine, then you could blame the next owner’s fiscal failings when he’s thinking up ways to fund the critical repairs you did nothing about. Yeah, you could do that I suppose, though it’d be a tad dishonest.

bolwerk's avatar

@jerv: NP. Personally I would regard “mass transit” (the high-volume, frequent transit – typically but not always the term probably refers more to frequency than volume) as largely workable only in urban cores and inner suburbs, the places where car ownership is getting evermore difficult. Maybe further out more infrequent commuter bus/train service becomes feasible (this may or may not be “mass transit” depending how the term is defined), but in either case that infrastructure already exists in support of what are otherwise car-centric developments. For now U.S. regulations probably preclude this under any circumstances involving freight along the route, but rural transit isn’t exactly inconceivable in the first world.

I don’t expect cars will go away, but I actually do think how we use them is very likely to change a lot in coming decades (e.g., self-driving), which will in turn inevitably have implications for land use. And regardless of that, between suburban housing stock decay and road infrastructure physically degrading, I would expect some resettlement too.

@Cruiser: current taxes are simply inadequate to pay for the system, and that’s why it’s so corrupt. 4,092,730 miles of public roadway in this country supported by annual user revenues of $91.622 billion. That’s around $22,387/mile to maintain and try to grow what is often a very complex infrastructure. Just consider alone that every few years, all that needs to be repaved at a cost that’s already in the six figures per lane mile – not to mention inspections (including of every bridge), re-signing, bulb replacements at lights, etc.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk As someone who has never lived within 10 miles (often not even 20) of their job, I support the idea of more commuter trains. Pity; I live next to a bus stop, yet haven’t had a job where I could use it to get to work.

simone54's avatar

Sounds like a good idea to me.

JLeslie's avatar

I have mixed feelings. When tolls are very high it bothers me, I think probably a mix of tax funds and tolls might be the answer. It’s frustrating when there are multiple tolls in close distance on the highway (Chicago is like this to reference a city already mentioned) rather than as you exit, it can be annoying too. Even when tolls have fast drive through, you usually have to slow a little and merge back into traffic, if you don’t have an epass it’s really frustrating. Turnpike where you take a ticket and pay as you exit is much easier. When I drive on the northern part of the FL turnpike I drive for over an hour without having to deal with a toll, even though it is a “toll” road.

I do think government money spent on roads needs to be better scrutinized. When I lived outside of Memphis there was an outer loop being built around the city. It wasn’t an interstate, but maybe it will become part of the system. Anyway, the portion they completed near me, went from a town that is not extremely developed up through more not very developed areas while south of me was where there was much more population and commercial business and that was left unfinished for years. I lived there over 7 years and it finally was completed just after I left. It was pretty frustrating, because the more populated areas obviously had more traffic lights and more road congestion, and that’s where a highway was most sorely needed. All I can figure is the northern part was completed first because the Navy base is up there, otherwise it makes no sense to me. It still doesn’t make sense, except that I think maybe someone with influence affected the decision.

If tolls are set up, is it going to be private roads? Or, tolls paid into the government? Maybe a mix?

Overall I think our “free” interstate system is great! Travelling for free across country is a true pleasure. I hope there is some other way to keep the roads up than tolls. Taxing gas sounds good until you consider how much it hurts the poor.

I’ve seen roads where the toll lanes are express lanes. That might be a good hybrid answer for places with very dense traffic. I don’t know how well that idea really works.

Better mass transit is worth looking at also.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Better mass transit would do wonders for this country. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who fly into hysterics at the mere mention of public transit.

JLeslie's avatar

Not only mass transit, but communities built with more mixed use where residential and commercial are very near each other. The suburban sprawl in America should be really looked at. Decreasing commuting distances and even the distance for common errands and things like eating out could really help save wear and tear on roads, gas, and time.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@JLeslie

Oh c’mon, a 15 minute drive just to pick up a gallon of milk is perfectly reasonable.

hearkat's avatar

I’m in @jerv‘s boat. I’ve commuted over 40 miles for all but one temp job that I’ve held since getting my Master’s 20 years ago. Public transportation does not go to the places where I work without it taking me twice as long to get there because I’d have to go so far out of my way.

Every year they talk about adding this-or-that tax for the highways, yet the highways never get much better. The NJ Turnpike is among the worst roads with its patchwork of pothole repairs, so tolls don’t get spent on appropriately, either. They take plenty of money in the name of infrastructure but spend it on some other crap – like double and triple pensions and sick-time buyouts. Now I’m paying for the defense lawyers for those clowns that fucked-up traffic as a political payback (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Chris Christie). I don’t have a problem paying taxes, as long as I know the government is being run ethically and efficiently, but that’s not reality.

Cruiser's avatar

@bolwerk “current taxes are simply inadequate to pay for the system, and that’s why it’s so corrupt.” So are you then suggesting the solution to fix the corruption is to throw more money at the system?? Makes no sense to me. I have lived in and very near to the legendary corrupt city of Chicago my whole life and worked directly within the system that controls city and state contracts…and it disgusts me. Top to bottom it is a pay to play contract system that is anything but discreet. Contractors openly give money and percs to politicians and state contracting authorities in order to secure contracts. If you don’t participate in this under the table game you will not get any work at all in our state. The unions then strong arm contractors who win these contracts and they know what is coming when they bid these contracts and why they are so costly. This is all enabled by career corrupt state politicians like Mike Madigan.

My company manufactures products used in road/highway and bridge construction that have to have individual state DOT approval and I am intimately familiar with how every state in our country operates and no 2 are the same. That is not a bad thing…but I will share that some are as easy as writing a cert letter and submit product data other states like my state of Illinois require an extensive submittal and approval process with a human rep present at their testing of the product. Two state Texas and California are beyond difficult and I characterize that difficulty and an admission fee to their good ol boys club and I refuse to pay to play for any business my company engages in.

Bottom line is anytime there are state and Federal dollars funding projects there will be corruption and lots of it.

Until the corrupt leaders are taken to task to fix the problem they have created, more tax money is only going to feed the corruption not reduce it. I abhor corruption in any form as it bleeds our tax dollars dry. Fix corruption and I guarantee you there will be a surplus in the federal state highway funds.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser I am on your side when it comes to my disgust regarding the corruption you describe. Just know that it happens in private business too. Hopefully, it happens less often, but in some industries the good old’ boy system is still alive and well. I guess technically it is illegal when the government is doing it, it certainly is dissappointing.

bolwerk's avatar

@Cruiser: call it what you want, there is no avoiding the need to spend out the ass if we want to bring roadway infrastructure up to a state of good repair. I’m not sure the political will is there to do it.

Cruiser's avatar

@bolwerk I have to agree with you and will add IMO the problem is much much worse than anyone is yet fessing up to. Yes we will need more taxes to begin tackling the problem in earnest and in turn make a lot of politicians, unions and big construction companies very rich in the process.

Keep an eye on Illinois Governor race this fall. We have AFAICT a true non-politician businessman challenging the Democratic machine in Illinois and he is promising to shake up the corruption that is rampant in our state politics and the unions. If he wins this race it will be interesting to see if he can pull off what he is promising to do. But it will be an uphill battle as the Dems are digging their heels in and will throw everything they got at this man to prevent his election to office.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Cruiser

Yeah, I dunno about all that. Rauner hasn’t really said anything that every other politician doesn’t say.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Well whatever the verdict, it is certain that not just the owners of automobiles will suffer from the rotting away of the nation’s roads. It’s impossible to think of any item in this country which hasn’t seen the inside of a truck. The other unavoidable reality is that it will once more be rural red America that gets hit first and hardest. As with the postal cutbacks, those rugged individualists who decry the evils of socialism will be first with the opportunity to “walk the walk”

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

If you want to get real concern over the state of our infrastructure start walking under random bridges and note the condition as seen from underneath.

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