More Americans are choosing to make their trips via toll roads, contributing to steady increase in toll traffic and a growing $13-billion industry, according to a new report.
This year, 5.7 billion trips have been made on U.S. toll roads, up from 5 billion trips in 2011– and a 14 percent increase, according to the report by the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA). Many of those trips are made in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida, which rank as the country’s top generators of toll road revenue.
In the Washington region, Maryland made the list of top 10 states with more toll road mileage, with 146 miles. Virginia came close, with 137 miles of toll roads.
The use of toll roads across the country has become more widespread over the years, and it could be partly because the construction of new toll roads is also up. Between 2011 and 2013, the number of toll road miles in the United States grew from 5,431 to over 5,932, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Thirty-four states and Puerto Rico have toll roads and crossings, and collectively generated $13 billion in toll revenue in 2013, accoding to the IBTTA report.
The association of owners and operators of toll facilities said more Americans may be embracing tolling because they experience “first-hand the greater safety and traffic flow.” The group’s data suggests that the fatality rate in toll roads is about one-third the rate of all U.S. roads.
Another contributor to the industry growth could be new technologies in the tolling industry, including all-electronic tolling, that make travel easier. Drivers embrace the chance to get past the toll both without waiting in long lines, idling in traffic or throwing quarters into a basket, the group says.
Last year, Virginia officials announced the state was removing coin baskets at unattended “exact change” lanes and converting them to E-ZPass-only on the Dulles Toll Road. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the road, said it wanted to encourage people to stop paying with coins and help ease congestion and increase convenience for toll road users.
In Maryland, drivers will have a bigger incentive to use toll roads starting Wednesday, when the state is rolling back tolls. The cuts mean travelers this summer will pay less at key points such as the Bay Bridge, the Intercounty Connector and Interstate 95. The cash toll rate for two-axle vehicles at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, for example, will drop to $4 from $6, while the E-ZPass discounted toll will be $2.50 round-trip, down from $5.40.