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Posted Nov 8, 2011, 9:16 am
Faced with a deteriorating roadway along an isolated stretch of Interstate 15 in the Arizona Strip, state officials have taken a first step toward charging a toll. That has neighboring Utah and Nevada raising concerns about the major link between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
The Arizona Department of Transportation recently submitted an Expression of Interest to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration to request funding and tolling authority for the 29 miles of I-15 running through the northwest corner of the state.
ADOT proposed scenarios in which the toll would be between $1 and $3 for cars and $6 and $10 for trucks.
Tim Tait, an ADOT spokesman, said the department is still in the early stages of exploration, so even if the toll is approved it could take years before it’s put in place.
“ADOT remains committed to its duty to ensure that I-15 remains a safe corridor,” Tait said in an email.
The interstate generates about $2.1 million in revenue for the state each year from truck use fees. With up to 24,000 vehicles passing through the area daily, the proposed toll could bring in as much as $400 million over the next 30 years for projects including rehabilitating bridges, preserving pavement and improving safety, ADOT’s filing said.
Tania Mashburn, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said while her department understands Arizona’s difficult financial position and the need for improvements, a toll would hinder interstate commerce.
“We urge Arizona to talk to those communities affected by the toll and look at all other options first,” Mashburn said in a phone interview.
Scott Magruder, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said I-15 is vital to the state’s economy, in part as a corridor for tourists. He said his department plans to work with Arizona to come up with a better solution.
“We’re looking forward to working together to see what can be accomplished,” Magruder said in a phone interview.
Karen Rasmussen, president and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association, said the toll would have a significant financial impact on truckers, who account for a quarter of the traffic along I-15.
“It’s a huge problem for the trucking industry,” Rasmussen said in a phone interview.
Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson said he isn’t opposed to road tolls but thinks a toll on I-15 wouldn’t be fair to travelers who have no other feasible alternatives.
“This is another cost that affects people quite a bit,” Johnson said in a phone interview.
One solution, he said, would be to require the federal government to pay for road rehabilitation.
“They build the roads,” Johnson said. “They should give you the financing.”
The only Arizona communities along the route are the neighboring towns of Littlefield and Beaver Dam.
Bonnie Rowley, a bookkeeper at the Beaver Dam Bar, said she doesn’t agree with the toll proposal because it would cause traffic delays, but she said something needs to be done about the road.
“It’s a travesty right now,” Rowley said.