Drivers in the U.S. are seeing the benefits of toll roads, according to a new report published by the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA). The 2015 Report on Tolling in the United States (June 30, 2015), indicates that U.S. drivers took 5.7 billion trips last year on toll roads, reflecting a 14% increase over the last four years. The construction of new toll roads is also on the rise and thus may be contributing to the steady increase in toll traffic.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the number of toll road miles in the U.S. increased from about 5400 in 2011 to almost 6000 in 2013. Toll roads and crossings are now located in 34 states and Puerto Rico, generating a total of $13 billion in toll revenue in 2013, which represents about 5% of all highway revenues in this country, according to the IBTTA report.
One of the factors cited by the report for the growth in toll roads is the increased use of new technology, such as all-electronic tolling, that allows drivers to avoid traffic congestion without waiting in line or stopping at toll booths to pay the toll. According to the report, there are now 37 million electronic toll accounts in the U.S., which is an increase of 20% in the past five years. Last year, Virginia officials joined the ranks of new technology adopters and announced that the state was converting its coin basket “exact change” lanes to E-ZPass only on the Dulles Toll Road.
Another possible reason that more drivers are using toll roads is the safety factor. The data provided in IBTTA’s report suggests that the fatality rate on toll roads is about one-third that of all U.S. roads, with 0.50 fatalities on toll roads per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared with an average of 1.47 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled on all U.S. roads. According to the report, the difference in safety may be due in part to the fact that most toll roads are centrally operated from modern operations centers linked to dedicated maintenance, emergency response and police services.
Although there are still a significant number of those opposed to toll roads in this country, the IBTTA report suggests that there is a growing appetite for more tolling as federal highway funding dries up and legislators search for other ways of paying for safe, reliable transportation facilities.