A bill moving forward at the Utah statehouse would expand the state’s authority to collect tolls on highways around the state.
Utah law already permits the use of tolls to cover state expenses.
The Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that is intended to “modernize” toll collection. Specifically, SB71 would authorize electronic collection methods to collect money.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, touts the change as necessary to avoid setting up toll booths.
The bill would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to use license plate scanning technology to charge a toll on any state road. The agency would also be permitted to use the technology to impose penalties for nonpayment.
The bill does not name a location for tolling authorization.
However, Niederhauser said tolls would help address congestion issues in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. The area southeast of Salt Lake City is popular for skiers.
Niederhauser said the state needs to start preparing now for big changes in how transportation revenue is raised.
“I believe in five to 10 years the gas tax will be obsolete, or at least a significant amount of cars on the road won’t be paying a gas tax,” told committee members.
He says the fuel tax collected today is not enough to cover the state’s expenses.
“We are not paying for roads with the gas tax today. Our motor fuel taxes are insufficient.”
He said that the highway fund gets $600 million annually from the state’s general fund.
“This is just the beginning about how we are going to fund roads in the future. We have electric cars coming. We might have hydrogen cars coming. How are they going to participate (in road funding)?” he asked.
“I think most of us agree that if you use the roads you should pay for the roads. Tolling has to be one of the options. I don’t like it. I know the public doesn’t like it.
“Unless there is some other magical way to deal with this we have to deal with a system of vehicle-miles-driven or tolling.”
SB71 awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the House.
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