With gasoline taxes increasingly unable to keep up with the need for highway construction and repairs, Congress is considering revisiting a 1956 law that bans collecting tolls on any stretch of Interstate Highway where tolls did not exist before the Interstate system was created, 1200 WOAI news reports.
When the law was passed, Congress allowed exemptions only for places like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which charged tolls before the Turnpike became Interstate 70.
1200 WOAI news has reported over the years on proposals to charge tolls on existing lanes of Interstate 10 in San Antonio, and a recent idea by TxDOT to switch the toll away from State Highway 130 between San Antonio and Austin and apply the toll on I-35. Neither of those ideas would be legal under existing law, but if the law were changed, it might happen.
But Texas transportation planner Michael Morris doubts it.
"When we rebuild a freeway, we will examine the feasibility of a tolled express lane, which we call tolled managed lanes, and have those lanes help pay for the cost of the rebuild of the freeway," Morris said.
Driving the debate is a U.S. Department of Transportation report predicting that the Highway Trust Fund, which is the main source of money for road projects, will run dry by August of this year. That would place proposals for all federally funded highway projects in jeopardy.
The federal gas tax at 18.4 cents a gallon, has not changed since 1993. Due to inflation, increasingly more fuel efficient cars, and now the advent of electric cars, which use no gasoline at all, not enough money is coming in to meet the nation's highway construction needs.
Morris says there is no support for this in Texas.
"I don't think we would start with this," he said. "I think we would try other options first."