A bill moving forward at the Utah statehouse would expand the state’s authority to collect tolls on any roadway.
Utah law already permits the use of tolls to cover state expenses. Tolling authority is limited to new roads.
The Senate voted 26-3 to advance an amended bill to remove the restriction 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.
The bill from Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, does not name locations for tolling authorization.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Niederhauser said his bill covers what he considers a “fairness issue.”
“We can’t have this policy only in growth areas. This policy has to be statewide and available on any road. It’s not just to be a good policy but to be fair to everyone.”
Niederhauser added that the state needs to start preparing now for big changes in how transportation revenue is raised. He went as far as to refer to fuel tax collection as “obsolete.”
“We face a giant problem with funding roads in the future. (Tolling) is definitely going to be part of what we do,” he said. “It’s not everything we will do, but as the gas tax becomes more irrelevant … we have to look at something like tolling or vehicle-miles-driven to fund roads.”
Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, voted in opposition to the revised language. During floor discussion he cited “grave concerns” about putting the toll option in the state’s “tool box.”
“Yes, it can be done. The question is should it be done,” Harper said.
Harper has offered an alternative to tolls to get road work done. His pursuit calls for multiple tax and fee increases to cover transportation needs.
Niederhauser acknowledged that he struggles with acceptance of charging tolls to access roadways.
“But we have to face reality going forward about how we are going to fund roads.”
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 also would be permitted to use the technology to impose penalties for nonpayment.
The bill awaits further consideration in the House.
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