Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition To Tolling

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Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition To Tolling
Two out of three reject the administration plan to toll existing interstate freeway lanes in a new Rasmussen Reports poll.
May 8, 2014

In a nationwide survey of American adults, only 22 percent expressed support for the administration’s latest push to allow states to convert existing freeway into toll roads. Rasmussen Reports released the findings Wednesday in the wake of the Transportation Department’s presentation of its funding blueprint to Congress.

“A proposal has been made to allow states to put tolls on Interstate highways to help pay for highway and other infrastructure repairs,” the pollsters explained to a thousand survey participants. “Do you favor or oppose putting tolls on Interstate highways for infrastructure maintenance?”

Nearly two-thirds said they opposed the idea. Resistance was nearly universal across demographic categories, with a solid majority of young and old, black and white, married and unmarried expressing opposition to tolls. Republican distaste for tolling was highest at 74 percent compared to 54 percent of Democrats. The only group where opposition to “Lexus lanes” softened was the over $200,000 income bracket, where 35 percent were against the idea.

Opposition to tolls did not appear to be rooted in financial concerns. The survey found only about a third of respondents said tolls in their area were too high, and 67 percent said they would find a way to route around the tolls. Rasmussen speculates that the primary reason the public rejects tolling is that 68 percent lacked confidence that interstate tolling funds would actually be used to repair roads and bridges.

Rasmussen is an independent survey firm that does not conduct commissioned polls seeking a certain outcome. State and federal transportation departments, on the other hand, have invested millions in taxpayer funds to support tolling efforts. In a 2007 report, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) emphasized the need to “educate” the public to arrive at a positive result in polling.

“In communicating about tolling, presenting a unified message to the public is necessary for public understanding and support of tolling programs,” the report explained. “Confusion over the need for tolls, the use of toll revenues, or the options available to travelers will undermine the credibility of tolling programs and increase public resistance.”

WSDOT data show that tolling imposes 22 percent overhead costs on all transactions, compared to the 0.88 percent cost of collecting the gasoline tax (view report).