Group calls for higher tolls on busy Utah roads

| 1/5/2007

A Utah taxpayer group is working on a bill to suggest to lawmakers that would allow toll collection in the state to be based on traffic congestion.

Mike Jerman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said the goal is to have price bumps in tolls at times of the day when there is heavy traffic on all new state highways.

The most likely candidates would be the planned Mountain View Corridor near Salt Lake City and the Legacy Parkway, which is a 120-mile highway proposed to run from Brigham City to Nephi.

The proposed pricing system would outfit vehicles with transponders to communicate with highway sensors.

"It makes sense to implement (congestion pricing) on new roads," Jerman told The Salt Lake Tribune. "For us, the main issue is slowing the growth of vehicle miles traveled."

Jerman said he predicts that if congestion pricing is implemented, congestion would decrease, leading to less demand for new highways.

Despite the discussion of adding tolls, officials with the Utah Department of Transportation said they have no plans to turn the Legacy Highway into a toll route.

Funding for the Mountain View Corridor has yet to be determined. A new law in the state authorizes the Utah Department of Transportation to join with a private partner to finance and build toll roads.

As an alternative to tolls, Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley, said a better solution to fund transportation work would be to increase the state's sales tax by a penny. A 1-cent increase would generate more than $500 million annually, the Deseret Morning News reported.