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Study: Tolling Could Fund I-80 Improvements

Wed April 04, 2018 - Midwest Edition #7
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Adding tolls could help Iowa finance the widening and rebuilding of a nearly 250-mi.-long rural stretch of Interstate 80, a Department of Transportation study suggests.

Imposing tolls would require the approval the Legislature and federal authorities, the Des Moines Register reported. None of the state's highways currently operate as toll roads.

Federal and state highway funds can't meet all of the state's highway needs, according to a study by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The study is meant to serve as a guide for future improvements on the interstate, with the goal of improving mobility, and it evaluated safety, capacity and infrastructure deficiencies throughout the interstate system.

“The study has determined that tolling is a financially feasible implementation option,' the department said.

The study suggests there would be 11 tolling stations across the state and the toll would be 8 cents a mi. for autos and 24 cents a mi. for trucks. Construction would last from 2022 through 2026.

“While tolling is not appropriate in every circumstance, it is a proven tool that speeds project delivery and provides a steady stream of funding for future road maintenance and improvements,' said International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Patrick D. Jones.

Not everyone backs introducing toll roads. Many truck drivers may simply divert their routes to take non-toll highways that run parallel to I-80, said David Scott, executive director of the Iowa Good Roads Association, a coalition of businesses, farm groups and local governments.

And March 26, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she wasn't interested in instituting tolls.

Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, chairman of the Iowa Senate Transportation Committee, is interested in finding an alternative to toll roads, such as raising truck weight limits and increasing truck license fees. Expanding U.S. Highway 30 in eastern Iowa could also help with congestion issues on I-80, as should the completion of U.S. Highway 20 this fall, he said.

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