Robert S. Kirk
Specialist in Transportation Policy
The prohibition of
tolling of federal-aid highways dates back to the Federal Road Act of 1916 (39 Stat.
355). Subsequent legislation modified the prohibition to the point where now
the only significant part of the federal-aid highway system under the toll
prohibition is the Interstate Highway System, comprising approximately
47,000 miles of the roughly 1-million-mile federalaid highway system.
Congress, in approving the Federal-Aid Highway Act and Highway Revenue Act
of 1956 (P.L. 84-621; 70 Stat. 374), rejected the use of tolls or user fees to
finance construction in favor of creating a highway trust fund supported
by dedicated fuel taxes. However, certain existing expressway segments
that were incorporated into the Interstate Highway System already had
tolls in 1956, and they are not covered by the tolling prohibition.
In recent years the revenues flowing into the highway trust fund have been
insufficient to maintain even current levels of federal funding for
highways. Political resistance to raising the federal fuels tax is high.
The fuel taxes dedicated to the highway trust fund, currently 18.3 cents per
gallon of gasoline and 24.3 cents per gallon of diesel fuel, were last raised
Historically, interest in toll financing has increased during periods of
constrained federal funding. Since the Interstate Highways make up nearly
all federal-aid highway segments that are still under the tolling
prohibition, advocates of expanded use of tolling focus their efforts on giving states
more flexibility to impose tolls on the Interstates within their borders.
of Report: March 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 5
Order Number: R42404
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