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EZ Pass Rider: Tolls Considered For Vermont's Interstates

Tim Boyd
Vermont's Transportation Agency is studying the possibility of funding the state's interstate system with money collected from toll booths, like this one on Interstate 95 in Hampton, N.H.

Have you ever wondered why there are toll booths on the interstates in New Hampshire and Maine and not in Vermont?

Under federal law, those states are allowed to impose tolls because they used a considerable amount of their own money to build their interstates. But states like Vermont, that used a lot of federal money to build the roads, aren’t allowed to charge tolls.

This could change soon because the White House is backing a plan to allow all states to charge an interstate toll if they want to. Congressman Peter Welch supports the change.

“I’d be in favor of letting the states have authority to make that decision and then of course that would be up to Montpelier and the Governor,” said Welch.

Sue Minter is the deputy secretary of Vermont’s Transportation Agency. She’s very interested in this subject.

"I have directed our staff to begin to re-evaluate whether it might be more feasible to consider tolling here in Vermont." - Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter

“I’ve directed our staff to begin to re-evaluate whether it might be more feasible to consider tolling here in Vermont, the electronic tolling system is now far more mature than it was the last time we looked at this,” said Minter. “So we want to see whether or not it might be a system we could consider or that the Legislature may be interested in considering in the future.”

Minter says a new electronic tolling system could be put into place without a lot of expensive personnel costs for people to work in toll booths.

“Now that’s becoming far more sophisticated and more people are able to participate,” said Minter. “In fact some systems now you have to have an EZ Pass, or else they take a photograph of your license and send you a bill in the mail.”

Minter says it’s important to study the tolling options because gas tax revenues are no longer keeping pace with the financing needs of the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“We think we have to always have our eye on the prize and think about how can we successfully fund our transportation system,” said Minter. “We can’t continue to rely on a declining revenue base and need to be thinking creatively and outside the box all the time.”

Minter says her agency is just beginning to explore the tolling option and she says it could be a number of years before the administration makes a decision about imposing a toll system on Vermont’s interstates.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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