Many thanks to Mark Thoma for alerting me to an article by Joseph M. Giglio:
WHEN THE federal government was preparing to build the interstate highway system, a commission appointed by President Eisenhower recommended it be built as toll roads, with the revenue used to cover ongoing operating costs, as well as debt service on the bonds issued to fund construction. But Congress decided interstates should be toll-free. Instead, it levied a tax on motor vehicle fuels and created the Highway Trust Fund as a repository for the revenue. Today, fuel tax revenues buy only about half as much construction as in the 1960s and ’70s. Since 1980, vehicle miles traveled on the nation’s roadways have nearly doubled, but total lane miles have scarcely increased. The results are a growing gap between needs and available resources, and a rising percentage of roads that are in bad shape.
Giglio, who is the author of “Mobility: America’s Transportation Mess and How to Fix it” and a member of the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission, continues by noting that different approaches are being tried to finance our roads in the future. Does anyone recall whether President Eisenhower ever proposed that the U.S. government sell the rights to charging tolls to a private entity or was his proposal that the Federal government retain full ownership of these rights?