The prospect of toll roads around the state of Utah has taken another step closer to becoming reality.
Utah law already permits the use of tolls to cover state expenses. Tolling authority, however, is limited to new roads.
House lawmakers voted 49-21 to advance an amended Senate bill that would expand the state’s authority to collect tolls on any roadway. The legislation would remove restrictions on roads that can be tolled.
Legislative approval would not be necessary for any project to move forward. Instead, the Utah Department of Transportation would be responsible for making decisions on tolls.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, is the bill sponsor. He spoke about the bill during recent committee discussion. He said congestion issues continue to worsen around the state despite efforts over the past couple of decades to address the issue.
“Here’s the reality check for us. This is just after we have spent billions and billions and billions of dollars on roads,” he testified. “We’ve given it our best shot over the last 20 years.”
Niederhauser said that the state needs to start preparing now for big changes in how transportation revenue is raised. He refers to fuel tax collection as “obsolete.”
He added that $600 million already is routed from the state’s general fund to roads to help cover costs.
“We have to deal with the reality there will be some sort of vehicle-miles-driven or tolling to pay for roads.”
Rick Clasby, executive director of the Utah Trucking Association, has told legislators that motor carriers “catastrophically hate tolls.” He added that his group is on record as supporting increases in fuel tax.
A change made to the bill on the House floor would require a study for how to best collect tolls from out-of-state drivers. The study would also look at toll collection from rental car drivers.
SB71 would also “modernize” toll collection. Specifically, electronic collection methods would be authorized to collect money.
The state DOT would be authorized 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 non-payment.
The bill now heads back to the Senate for final approval before moving to the governor’s desk. The chamber approved a slightly different version of the legislation on a 26-3 vote.
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