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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Toll roads surge in U.S. as rest of infrastructure declines



Notice how infrastructure spending has lagged in the U.S. compared to other countries?

Or that the federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993?

How about that the federal share of revenue paying for Florida's roads, once more than 50 percent, is now below 25 percent?

While motorists may not enjoy the consequences of a nation retreating from paying for its infrastructure, there is one industry that takes great pleasure in it.

Namely, the toll industry.

And who can blame it?

According to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the use of tolls surged by 7 percent between 2014 and 2015, a record pace. The IBTTA analysis shows 5 billion trips and transactions in 2015 on a sample of 31 toll-operated facilities, an increase of 328 million from 2014.

"It is clear that not only travel volumes aree up, but that toll road usage has increased significantly, as well," the IBTTA said in its report.

In Florida, the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority saw a surge in traffic in 2015 of 25 percent, from 38.3 million transactions to 47.9 million, the biggest percentage increase in the nation. The Central Florida Expressway Authority in Orlando saw an uptick of 10 percent. 

The Florida's Turnpike Enterprise had a record number of transactions in 2015, 842 million. That's an increase of 9 percent from 2014. 

Go years without maintaining and providing other transportation options, and it should be no shocker that certain motorists are flocking to facilities that at least promise a smoother travel experience.

If Congress, state legislatures and county governments continue to dither on paying more for infrastructure, expect this trend to accellerate.

By the looks of what the Florida Department of Transportation has planned, it already has.

There's the I-95 Express in Miami

And the I-4 Ultimate Improvement Project

The I-75 Express Lanes Project and the Northeast Florida Express Lanes, too. Oh, and don't forget Tampa Bay Express.  

There's much, much more being planned under Gov. Rick Scott.

Nature abhors a vacuum. In the transportation world, that means tolls are by default becoming this nation's financial support for roads. You may not have noticed this shift, but you will.


[Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 11:40am]


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