I've lifted the following "Frequently Asked Questions" from their website for this discussion:
Why are toll roads being considered for North Carolina?
Roads and transportation systems are not free. The public pays for them one way or another, whether it is with gas taxes, new vehicle sales taxes, or tolls. Gasoline taxes, initially conceived as a kind of shadow toll that people would pay in proportion to their use of the roadway system, have become relatively large -- typically 35 to 40 cents per gallon -- and increases now frequently meet strong public resistance. In addition, the automobile industry is making continuous improvements in the fuel efficiency of vehicles, reducing the amount of revenue generated per vehicle-mile of travel. Alternative fuels, such as natural gas, ethanol, and electricity, are taxed at lower rates to encourage their use. A study by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of Southern California determined that the California state gas tax would need to be increased 30 cents per gallon in order to raise the same amount of revenue for each vehicle-mile traveled now as was raised in 1960. Factors like these will continue to limit the potential of gas taxes as solutions to our funding problems. Increased levels of urban congestion and declining funding by federal and state governments prompted a wave of toll road projects during the 1980s, particularly in Florida, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, and California. Today there are more than 5,000 miles of toll roads and bridges across the nation. Toll roads offer an opportunity to supplement ongoing department of transportation programs and can accelerate the implementation of transportation infrastructure improvements years before a traditional pay-as- you-go approach allows. Toll roads also provide opportunity to apply innovative financing options that are currently allowed with federal aid revenues.
Motorists would continue to pay gas taxes, and also tolls on certain highways. Isn’t that double taxation?
No. It is true that motorists who pay tolls also pay federal and state motor fuel taxes. But the double taxation argument was addressed by the United State Department of Transportation in its 1968 Highway Needs Report to Congress, which states: "The toll road user pays a toll and also pays taxes on fuel consumed while traveling on the toll road. But this is not truly double taxation, since the fuel taxes paid are applied to other highways. The situation is essentially the same as the support of low-volume roads by the taxes 'earned' on high-volume roads." The bottom line is that motorists are not paying twice to use a toll facility. Instead, in return for paying a toll, they are given new road capacity that enables them to reduce losses of time, productivity, and competitiveness.
Won’t the presence of toll plazas create a safety hazard for motorists?
The accident rate on toll roads is on average around 1/3 less than on tax-based roads. According to 1998 USDOT statistics, the nation's freeways and expressways had 8.6 fatalities per billion miles traveled. Data for toll roads from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association indicate a fatality rate of 6.2 per billion miles traveled. While traditional cash toll plazas create backups that present the greatest safety hazard for motorists, often resulting in increased incidences of rear-end collisions, electronic toll collection ultimately will make traditional cash plazas obsolete. Long lines and bottlenecks at tollbooths need no longer be synonymous with toll operations.
Who will decide what toll roads will be built, and when?
The state Legislature in fall 2002 established the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA). The NCTA is authorized to plan, design, build, operate, and maintain up to 3 toll facilities, and prepare plans for up to 3 additional projects. For additional details on the statutory powers and duties of the NCTA, click here.
When will a decision be made on toll projects to be programmed?
The NCTA is currently in the process of developing a business plan, project selection criteria, and a work program. Actual selection and programming of projects will likely not occur before summer 2004.
When will the first toll road be open to traffic?
NCTA projects will be subject to the same planning and environmental documentation requirements as any other proposed highway project. The actual time required to complete this process, prepare the necessary designs, and acquire the needed right-of-way, will vary considerably from project to project, but under a best-case scenario, the earliest a toll facility might be open to traffic would be approximately 2010.
Will the Turnpike Authority impose tolls on any existing roads?
The Authority is statutorily prohibited from tolling existing highways.