July 14, 2008

Tollbooths on I-95? Good Luck

Marc Comtois

I grew up in northern Maine (Bangor-area), where the Maine Turnpike Authority kicks in around Augusta and you pay on down the road until you hit New Hampshire. One of the things I like about Rhode Island is not paying tolls on the regular highway. But we may be headed that way, according to the ProJo. Now, some of the ideas are better than others, but one has "unintended consequences" written all over it:

[URI Prof. Henry] Schwarzbach said that most travel on Route 95 is within the state, and that traffic volume more than triples between North Kingstown and Warwick.

Putting a toll booth north of the Route 295 interchange, he said, could raise $75 million per year with a cheaper toll, $1.75, even allowing for some discount passes. It could also have this beneficial side effect: Drivers wanting to avoid the toll would take Route 295 around Providence, reducing traffic jams there.

You know what else they'll avoid? That toll booth altogether. More than a few commuters will duck around them, especially anyone who lives in Warwick. That, in turn, will lead to more congestion on the east-west routes within Warwick and Cranston. You see, one toll booth, no matter how strategically placed you may think it is, won't "capture" the revenue you think it will. Drivers will go to great lengths to avoid 'em. The only way to implement a toll system is to take a broad approach, which means you'd need booths on Route 6 or Route 10 and I-195, too. I don't think Rhode Islanders will go for that!

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Maine rivals Rhode Island as a tax hell, and like Rhode Island has a moribund economy.

Rather than trying to emulate a failed model, we should be emulating successful states - New Hampshire, North and South Carolina, etc.

Posted by: Tom W at July 14, 2008 9:47 AM


Let me get this straight. The Governor, who is supposedly anti-tax, appoints a commission to study how the state could improve its infrastructure, and the ideas they'll look at all have to do with: RAISING TAXES!

Makes sense.

Posted by: McLenclos at July 14, 2008 10:30 AM

I'll be paying that toll ONCE - as I pass out of town on my way to my NEW home state. That'll be the final insult for me and my family.

Posted by: EZ Pass at July 14, 2008 11:59 AM

Tom, Actually, though Maine does have a poor economy, their toll system is much like NHs. NH has many more than just the big one on I-95 (go up the Spaulding Tpk). My point was that one booth placed "strategically" will fail because people will go around it. Better to hit them coming and/or going and leaving it at that. That is, if you want to go the toll route at all (so to speak).

Posted by: Marc at July 14, 2008 1:24 PM

Fair enough Marc.

My issue is that a toll is easier to swallow in NH, which has no sales or income tax.

Here in RI it'll just be an additional tax.

Moreover, like the excise taxes on gasoline, the General Assembly will grab the money for the general fund, from which it'll be peed away just like the existing revenue streams.

The General Assembly diverting the gasoline tax money to feed the public sector union / welfare industry monsters is a major, if not the major reason why Rhode Island's roads are a disgrace, and our bridges literally collapsing.

Posted by: Tom W at July 14, 2008 3:07 PM

Maybe if we weren't spending so much money on illegals and welfare queens we'd have money to keep our bridges up.

Posted by: EMT at July 14, 2008 4:37 PM

We went on a road trip to Washington for the long holiday weekend. It took us 7 hours to reach the hotel on a Thursday. It took us 11 hours to return home, on a Sunday. Traffic was backed up for miles at certain spots along the trip home. All but one were caused by tolls. Particularly difficult spots were in Delaware and NY. Imagine for a minute how much fuel was wasted, how much damage such emissions caused to our environment, while thousands of cars waited to pay the tolls.

We paid nearly $25 in tolls on top of the fuel taxes. Very frustrating.

Posted by: mikeinRI at July 14, 2008 4:44 PM

Maybe if we weren't spending so much money on leeches living off the public tit ...(e.g. illegals, welfare queens, Public Employee Union members receiving unsustainable Pension and Healthcare benefits, No-show Union Pwesidents like Lazy-Ass Pauly "No Show" Doughty, etc.) we'd have money to keep our bridges up.

Posted by: George Elbow at July 14, 2008 7:52 PM

How much will it cost to build toll booths on I-95 and block off on/off ramps to direct interstate traffic to the toll booths? What are the inherent safety issues to adding tool booth to a highway that was not designed to accommodate them? How much design work and construction required for support building? If EZ-pass is installed on Newport Bridge will there be EZ-pass lanes on I-95. For a toll road winter snow clearing must be a priority and who will get the contract? Toll roads require stellar maintenance so who will provide road maintenance?

RI is Swiss cheese when is comes to alternate north-south secondary highway routes that bypass I-95. What will increased traffic do to local cities/town roads and communities with bypass tool booth traffic? Has anyone figured the total cost and maintenance to set up toll booths and the total environmental impact?

RI is 45 min by 90 min as the crow flies with no traffic on the highways. RI is known for high taxes. Does RI want a new title by setting up toll booth?

RI is already creating a wonderful name for its self by out-sourcing RI Tourism 800 question numbers to out-of-state (people never living or even visiting RI). According to local RI news reports; when asked where to find good Italian food people are being directed to Olive Garden in Attleboro by out-of-state 800 RI Tourism numbers!

Posted by: Ken at July 15, 2008 12:57 AM

Whats the big deal. First the mention of tolls on RI highways is a trial ballon. Second who cares about creating a speed bump for out of state drivers speeding to the cape or to the casinos. Third if you're a local and can't figure out a way around paying then you're even more stupid than you ordinary reveal here on this blog. Taxes are going up for infrastructure and to bail out the banks. (not just in RI)

Posted by: Phil at July 15, 2008 5:44 AM

This is such a bad idea. We already paid enough in state taxes to keep the roads up. (Fourth highest taxed.) Why should we pay again just because the first round of money did not actually go to the roads?

Posted by: Monique at July 15, 2008 8:12 AM

It is ILLEGAL to put a toll on an existing free Interstate. Places where Interstates are tolled like the old Connecticut Turnpike, Mass. Pike, Deleware, NJ, Penn., Maine, etc. were all built with STATE funds before the Interstate System started in 1956.
In Rhode Island, 95, 195 and 295 were all built after 1956 with FEDERAL money and can never be tolled.
The fact that the DOT doesn't yet realize this is mind-boggling.

Posted by: Mike at July 15, 2008 8:46 AM

I'm glad Mike points out the obvious -- it's a little hard to put a toll on a road you don't own. The highways were built using Federal funds, and putting a toll on them would require compensating the Federal government first. We might as well investigate putting a toll on the Mass Pike. Think of how much we could make off of that.

Posted by: Mario at July 15, 2008 12:20 PM

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, Falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

Well, actually it's not. It is alive and well in Arizona. But apparently the rest of the infrastructure within the US is falling down. Damn close. The cost of empire, kids. Stop your whining lest you stand accused of not supporting the troops or some other jingo jive.

Now do the right thing and buy stock in foreign companies who will no doubt get the contracts. Macquarie group is one.

Posted by: PDM at July 17, 2008 8:12 PM

Those highways were built with Federal money from public tax receipts.

That means they belong to the public... to everybody.

To privatize them now would be an unprecedented theft and transfer of public assets to private control.

That would be unethical, and very likely, illegal.

Don't let them get away with it.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen at July 19, 2008 1:11 PM
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