Tolls for roads and bridges are typically used to maintain infrastructure, including periodic paving, striping and pothole repair. Also known as turnpikes, toll roads are often use tolls as substitutes for gasoline taxes. It is estimated that in the United States, there are more than 5,200 miles of toll roads.
Following the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, many states, including Texas, began instituting more toll roads to construct, repair and improve roads without raising taxes. The increased popularity of tolls was also a way to supplement the federal gasoline tax, which hadn't increased beyond 18.4 cents per gallon since 1991.
Critics of tolls say that 80 percent of the funds go toward paying private companies that manage toll roads, particularly when it comes to paying tollbooth operators. They also contend that tolls typically continue long after the cost of a highway project is paid off. While that is often true, the Astoria-Megler Bridge toll ended when the project was paid for two years ahead of schedule.
Proponents of toll roads say they allow for environmentally positive projects not generally financed by highway funds and gasoline taxes. For example, tolls are sometimes used to place roads underground in certain environmentally sensitive areas.