Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has raised the prospect that future infrastructure improvements may be funded in part by imposing tolls on more of the nation’s roads and bridges. While this is a great way to raise revenues for states and roadway authorities, there is one big problem with establishing tollways.
It is true that pay-for-use roadways are equitable in that those who actually use the roadway pay for the construction and maintenance. To that extent tollways appear to be a great idea. But once the roadways are completed and an entity is empowered with maintaining those roadways there is a want to continue raising tolls.
Yes, inflation and other directly related issues necessarily create a need to increase revenue that is coming into the toll authority, but most often any increase in toll costs per user is related to labor union contracts and patronage placement of political hires at the roadway authorities.
Toll authorities, be they for bridges or roadways, are notorious for fiscal irresponsibility. Jokes about "Chicago road crews" aren't that much of a stretch, and resurfacing projects are loaded with fiscal largess. A good example is the Illinois Toll Highway Authority which buys fleets of cars for contractors to use during resurfacing projects.
Creating new toll authorities is a slippery slope to nickel-and-diming the roadway user to a point of ridiculousness. Something to think about moving forward.