Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Utahns Staging Massive Backlash Against Proposed Tolling; Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon The Latest To Oppose Tolling The Mountain View Corridor
The growing list of local governments and notables opposing the possible tolling of the proposed Mountain View Corridor has increased by one. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and the County Council now oppose the idea. Full story published September 2nd, 2008 by KSL Channel 5. An August 31st report by the Deseret News is included for additional reference.
One of Corroon's objections, stated on August 31st, was that tolling the Corridor but not tolling any other Salt Lake Valley freeways would impose an unfair burden on west side residents. But Corroon also opposes the concept of tolling. Mayor Corroon prefers alternatives, such as gas taxes, sales taxes, and/or more federal investment in our roads and infrastructure. Corroon wants funding for roads to be equitable.
"We just don't feel like one area should be stuck with paying for the burden of everyone," Corroon said. "It would be a disgrace if we toll the roads on one side of the valley when we don't toll the roads in other parts of the valley."
Salt Lake County Council Chairman Michael Jensen echoed this concern. "The west side has helped build all the other roads, so why should the west side be punished by having a toll road just for them? I just think it's not fair to the west side of the valley", said Jensen.
The municipal governments of South Jordan, Riverton, and Draper are all on record as opposing tolling as well. In addition, bipartisan legislative opposition in the persons of District 10 Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) and District 5 Senator Karen Mayne (D-West Valley City) exists; both senators are up for re-election this year.
Legislative cheerleaders for tolling include District 21 Senator Sheldon Killpack (R-Syracuse) and Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Draper). Stephenson is president of the business-backed Utah Taxpayers Association, which supports freeway congestion pricing. He said it is wrong for taxpayers to subsidize interstate capacity built to meet the demands of just four hours a day. He prefers to have peak-hour drivers pay their way.
The 44-mile long Mountain View Corridor, which will link the west side of the Salt Lake Valley with Utah County, is expected to cost about $2.0 billion. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has proposed a market basket of funding strategies, including, but is not promoting any specific funding idea. One tolling idea which has not attracted so much opposition is the conversion of the HOV lanes on Interstate 15 to a "Lexus lane". The Lexus lanes would be made available to drivers willing to pay a toll. Read this post to find out more about Lexus lanes.
However, the opposition to tolling described above just scratches the surface. In a poll being conducted by the Provo Daily Herald, 92.35 percent of the 327 respondents oppose tolling Utah's highways; only 7.65 percent approve of tolls. The poll is associated with an August 29th column in which the Herald took an editorial position against tolling as well.
To summarize the editorial, proponents of tolling are concerned about the preponderant dependence on gas taxes to fund roads. They are concerned not only about the impact of decreasing revenues from gas taxes, but in the longer run, the inreasing use of electric vehicles which use NO gas. Consequently, proponents believe that tolling will provide a more stable revenue stream, and in addition, would be more fair, since those who use the roads the most would pay the most.
But opponents of tolling are concerned that tolls might steer drivers away from interstate highways and onto local arterials, creating gridlock. In addition, our transit system serves everyone, not just drivers. If the argument focuses now on big highways, it has to be remembered that the network of federal, state and local roads is interconnected.
In addition, there's also the larger issue of our freedon to travel. Public transit is fine, but we shouldn't overlook the freedoms granted by our system of public roads. It enables people to seek out more opportunities. They aren't tied down to a schedule or route created by bureaucrats. An open system allows people to maximize potential.
Finally, the more complex the system gets, the bigger the supporting bureaucracy is required. Consider the income tax code; once a couple of pages, it's now grown to thousands. Crafting an elaborate code specifying who should pay what for driving when and where could produce an indecipherable and Byzantine maze of new government regulations.
And it's the superior arguments of the opponents of tolling which have won over the Daily Herald and caused them to weigh in against tolling. Ironically, the Herald didn't even address a major and egregious use of our tolling system - the increasing penchant to outsource tolling to foreign countries. In this case, we allow foreign companies to bid on and win contracts to operate and maintain our interstate highways, and, in exchange, they assess and collect tolls. This is money leaving the United States, which constitutes the effective sale of a chunk of our national patrimony to foreigners.
Utahns need to JUST SAY NO to tolling!!!