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12/3/2012 11:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Study Says Collection Costs About Equal for All-Electronic Tolls or Fuel Taxes

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Dec. 3 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The cost of all-electronic tolling is about the same as the cost of collecting fuel tax, and could result in more money available for highway infrastructure improvements, the Reason Foundation said in a study released last week.

The libertarian think tank said the report bucks the “widely believed” notion that fuel tax collection costs about 1% of the revenue it raises. Instead, the report, which drew mixed reactions from transportation groups, claims fuel taxes and electronic tolling each cost about 5% of the revenue they raise, Reason said.

“These findings have major implications for the future of highway finance and funding,” Bob Poole, Reason’s director of transportation policy and the project manager for the study, said in a Nov. 27 statement announcing the research.

“Some of the concerns over shifting from increasingly inadequate per-gallon fuel taxes to a per-mile charging system have been the assumed much-higher cost of charging by the mile,” he said. “The authors suggest that, for the limited-access highway system . . . it would be feasible today to begin the conversion from gasoline and diesel taxes to all-electronic tolling.”

American Trucking Associations, which supports fuel taxes over tolling to pay for new infrastructure, was suspicious of the report.

“We’re examining it, as we would with any report or study that is so far out of step with what the preponderance of research has said to date,” said ATA spokesman Sean McNally. “We’re looking at that with a critical eye, and also considering the views and leanings of the source of the report.”

“The body of research of the subject shows that perhaps tolling is not as good a public policy choice as the study would purport to claim,” McNally added.

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