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Utah to Arizona: Don't toll Interstate 15

October 31, 2011 | 12:27 pm

Toll booth
A proposed toll on a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in Arizona is drawing opposition from neighboring Utah.

"If Arizona has been negligent in its maintenance of I-15, it should not try and foist its responsibility onto highway users or neighboring states who already pay into the system with their own tax dollars," Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert said in a recent statement.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) added in his own statement that he'd prefer "to see that part of the Arizona strip transferred to Utah before requiring Utahns to pay tolls to the state of Arizona to drive on I-15."

They were responding to a recent "expression of interest" filed by Arizona to become one of three projects nationwide to test tolls as a way to fund reconstruction of deteriorating segments of the interstate system.

Documents filed with the Federal Highway Administration raise the possibility of a toll of $1 to $3 for cars and $6 to $10 for trucks on that scenic stretch of I-15 in the state’s northwest corner.

The controversy comes about a month after Virginia won tentative approval to toll a portion of I-95 near the North Carolina border.

The interstate system has been largely free of tolls except for old turnpikes mostly on the East Coast.

A provision of the 1998 federal highway bill authorized three projects nationwide to test tolls as a way to address deteriorating segments of the interstate system at a time when gas tax revenues have fallen because of increased vehicle fuel efficiency and there is strong opposition in Congress to a fuel tax increase. The American Trucking Assn. also opposes the toll projects.

A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation said the state is only exploring the possibility of tolling and that it will take years of study before any final decision is made.

The spokesman said in an email that the department is committed to keeping I-15 "a safe and functional corridor. However, the issue is replacement of 40-year-old infrastructure and the need for $250 million in rehabilitation in the years ahead. States have to look at all options and that is what ADOT is doing here. We remain open to a multi-state solution to address these long-term needs.''

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 -- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Toll roads, and the accompanying toll booths, are familiar enough in some parts of the nation (this one is in California). But Utah doesn't want Arizona to turn a stretch of Interstate 15 into one. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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