Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday proposed expanding highway tolls and charging drivers for every mile they travel to generate additional revenue to fund the state’s growing transportation needs.
As an alternative to implementing a gasoline tax, Rep. Thomas Stanley suggested creating a pilot program to test fees based on the miles people travel rather than the amount of gas used, the State House News Service reported. Thomas argued that rising fuel efficiency in vehicles will result in motorists purchasing less gas, generating less revenue for the state.
Stanley explained that system, often referred to as vehicle miles traveled or VMT, would help ensure the Bay State has funding available to make upgrades to its aging public transit systems, roads, and bridges that require maintenance.
The proposal was made in front of several key House members after the Baker administration warned that traffic has reached a “tipping point” and expressed concerns from businesses about the economic impact of transportation challenges for their employees, and widespread frustration over public transit disruptions from commuters.
Sen. Brendan Crighton proposed overhauling the state’s toll system and expanding charges to many more drivers than those who currently face them.
The bill would expand tolls to stretches of Interstate 93, Interstate 95 and Route 2 in an attempt to apply equal charges to drivers across the greater Boston region. It would also implement dynamic “peak pricing” where the toll varies based on roadway conditions.
It would also instruct the Department of Transportation to report on the feasibility of implementing all-electronic tolling on state and interstate highways “not currently subject to a toll,” taking a look in particular at tolls along the state’s borders.
Crighton suggested that the new systems could help reduce congestion, encourage shared rides and bring in funding for transit infrastructure.
He also pitched a bill that would increase the fees on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. The proposed fees would be 4.25 percent of the total fare paid for shared rides and 6.25 percent of the fare for a single passenger trip.
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