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Roadway Tolling – A Look at Public Opinion

Roadway Tolling – A Look at Public Opinion

In this week’s edition of the RoadReady Newsletter, we explored the history of roadway tolling as well as modern innovations. The amount of roadway tolling projects in the U.S. is growing significantly, but just how does the public feel about roadway tolling? While one might expect that the general public is opposed to paying to drive on their roads and bridges, research has shown that this isn’t the case. Let’s take a look at a few studies of public opinion on tolling conducted in the last few years.

In 2010, HNTB, a national infrastructure firm, conducted a nationwide opinion study on general tolling issues. They found that 84% of Americans support the consideration of tolling for individual projects, as well as for general funding. Over twice as many respondents supported funding of new roadways using toll revenues than those that supported an increase in the gas tax. 68% of respondents agreed that they would pay higher tolls if it saved them travel time, and of those that drive on tolled roads and bridges, 76% were satisfied with their current tolling systems.

The public is often willing to pay tolls in return for reduced congestion and travel time

In 2008, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) conducted a detailed survey of state experiences with tolling, and included feedback from around the world. Rather than directly surveying the public, the TRB compiled a large number of individual studies conducted by local agencies to create a broad picture of public opinion. The general conclusion of this study was that on the whole, the public is supportive of roadway tolling as a source of roadway funding. The sheer volume of data available also suggested that transportation agencies are very conscious of public opinion when planning tolling projects. Researchers also pointed out an interesting phenomenon in tolling policy. Often, politicians assume that tolling projects are unpopular with constituents, while the opposite is usually true. The study pointed to a particular survey which followed the governor of Illinois’ proposal to remove tolling from the Illinois Tollway. In fact, the survey showed that a majority of respondents supported tolling on the roadway for system maintenance and rehabilitation.

Because of the level of direct impact and interaction with users, public opinion is an important factor to consider on any tolling project. To date, transportation agencies have had a good track record of measuring this crucial variable prior to the decision making process, and public attitude towards tolling seems generally favorable. With the growth in tolling that is likely to occur in the coming years, this is an issue that should be watched closely.

For more information on public opinion, check out the following surveys:

HNTB – Americans Prefer Tolls Over Taxes

TRB – Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing

Public Opinion on Tolling

For general resources on roadway tolling:

AASHTO-Toll Funding

Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.

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