The prospect of toll roads around the state of Utah is one step away from becoming a reality.
Utah law already permits the use of tolls to cover state expenses. Tolling authority, however, is limited to new roads.
The Senate voted to sign off changes to a bill made in the House that would expand the state’s authority to collect tolls on any roadway. Specifically, SB71 would remove the restriction on roads that can be tolled.
Clearance of the legislation at the statehouse greenlights the bill to advance to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.
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.
Outgoing Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, sponsored the bill. During recent committee discussion on the bill he said congestion issues continue to worsen around the state despite efforts over the past couple of decades to address the issue.
Niederhauser said that the state needs to start preparing now for big changes in how transportation revenue is raised. He has referred to fuel tax collection as “obsolete.”
He has 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.”
The Utah Trucking Association is opposed to collecting toll taxes. Instead, UTA Executive Director Rick Clasby has told legislators 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 nonpayment.
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