Toll roads feeling the fuel-price pinch

| 8/1/2008

Traffic is decreasing on some toll roads around the nation and officials say it’s because of high fuel prices.

It’s happening in Texas, where dozens of toll roads and tolled metro loops are being designed and built to handle a steep increase in population and traffic.

The North Texas Tollway Authority, which operates the 30-mile President George Bush Turnpike in the North Dallas area, saw traffic decrease by 1.4 percent in May and 2.3 percent in June compared to those same months in 2007.

“Historically, we have seen slight decreases in traffic when fuel prices spike and that traffic adjusts as prices decline,” NTTA spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt told Land Line.

Traffic on the Dallas North Tollway has increased, but by just 0.1 percent during the same timeframe. That’s much lower than the 3 percent growth seen from January to June of this year.

“Fuel prices may be one factor in the change,” Coffelt said.

It’s also happening in Maine where officials with the Maine Turnpike Authority publish a monthly vehicle count. The latest count shows the number of Maine Turnpike users decreased from 5.66 million to 5.34 million – 5.7 percent – in June 2008 compared to June 2007 traffic. Click here to view the chart.

“We believe it’s probably the increase in the cost of fuel,” spokesman Bruce Pelletier told Land Line. “Commercial vehicle traffic is down also, and that’s an indication that the economy is weakening or slower as well.”

Pelletier said traffic on weekdays remains steady, but weekend traffic that includes tourists is down.

He said overall traffic counts on the turnpike are down 1.8 percent year-to-date for 2008.

– By David Tanner, staff writer