Using America's interstate system could get more expensive in some places in the near future. Provisions in the White House-endorsed, $302 billion transportation bill would allow states to get permission from the federal government to impose tolls on them to raise money for infrastructure upkeep. Of course, some states already charge to drive on the interstates – the New Jersey turnpike, for example – but for the most part charges are rare on the federally funded roads.
"We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to the Washington Post.
Currently, interstate infrastructure upkeep is mostly funded through the US Highway Trust Fund, which collects taxes on gas and diesel fuel. However, it's no longer bringing in the money to make needed repairs. According to the Washington Post, the federal gas tax hasn't been raised or adjusted since 1993. Most states get about half of their highway funding from the federal government.
Opening up the ability for states to charge tolls is just one way the government hopes to raise money. The measures comes as part of the transportation bill that aims to fund interstate infrastructure upkeep for the next four years partially by eliminating some tax breaks on businesses. Another provision in it would increase the maximum fines that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could levy against automakers that delay recalls.
Reportedly, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working on their own alternatives to the bill, and the Obama administration says that it's open to counter offers. Though, lawmakers don't have long to decide. According to the Washington Post, the current federal highway funding law expires at the end of September, and the Department of Transportation warns that the Highway Trust Fund could be empty as soon as this summer as well. It will be interesting to see if any of these proposals make it into the final law.