Iowa DOT Study Suggests Tolls as Option to Fund I-80 Rebuild

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Iowa Department of Transportation recently released its long term planning study for Interstate 80 through the year 2045. The study predicts the road will need to be rebuilt and widened and suggests tolls as a way to fund the project.

"Is it feasible that you could put in tolling and you could use tolling revenue to pay for future development of the Interstate 80 corridor, then the answer would be yes. But when we look at that in terms of where we need to be over a certain time period as well as the impacts that that has on the system as a whole, then we would say, well, we don't recommend that and we should use more traditional funding resources as those evolve over time,” Iowa DOT Director Mark Lowe said.

Even though the DOT decided not to recommend tolls right now, officials are not ruling out the option for the future. The mere suggestion of tolls was met with a lot of opposition, though.

"I'm not interested in tolls. I don't think Iowans are interested in tolls. I have no interest in tolls," Governor Kim Reynolds said.

Executive Director of the Iowa Good Roads Association David Scott said he thinks Iowans would not support tolls.

"Every one of us in Iowa and as well as those people passing through the state, every one of us has paid to build that road through the gas tax, and so now what you're saying is, well, yeah, you paid to build it, but now we want you to pay to use it. Well, I did pay to use it when I gave you that 20 cents per gallon in the gas tax," Scott said.

Lowe said the gas tax does solve critical road issues, but it doesn't solve everything.

"I wouldn't look at that and say, yes, we definitely solved it with that fuel tax. On the other hand, that doesn't mean we need to go to tolling as a structure," he said. "There are other options that, over time, we can pursue. For instance, the way that we register electronic vehicles, the way that we calculate vehicle miles traveled for electric vehicles could be ways that we could start to offset some of those things without going to a tolling structure."

Lowe said two of the reasons they decided not to pursue tolls right now are because more drivers would use county roads, which are not meant for excessive travel, and laws would have to be changed at both the state and federal levels.