Iowa proposal for tolls on I-80 might move traffic to U.S. 36

 36 Toll -Road
Trucks and other vehicles travel along I-72 in Illinois just east of Hannibal, Mo. Businesses along I-72 and U.S. 36 say they would welcome the extra traffic that would result if Iowa charges tolls on I-80 across that state. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
Michael Kipley 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 4, 2018 8:35 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Transportation supporters and business owners along U.S. 36 in Missouri and Interstate 72 in Illinois say they'll welcome the added traffic if Iowa lawmakers move forward with plans to charge tolls along I-80 across the Hawkeye State.

A study under review in Iowa suggests 11 tolling stations across that state. The toll would be 8 cents a mile for autos and 24 cents a mile for trucks. Trucks crossing the state would face a charge of nearly $60, and passenger vehicles would pay about $20.

Tolls would help Iowa finance the widening and rebuilding of a nearly 250-mile-long rural stretch of interstate highway. Construction would last from 2022 through 2026.

Pat Poepping, a Quincy engineer and member of the Tri-State Development Summit's Steering Committee, said tolls on I-80 would persuade some drivers to take alternative routes such as U.S. 36 and I-72.

"Truckers hate tolls," Poepping said. "We don't know how much traffic it would pull our way, but I'm sure it would pull some. It would be great for our area."

The Tri-State Development Summit supported the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway that has Route 110 markers on highway signs between the two cities. The C-KC travels along I-336 and I-172 past Quincy and along I-72 and U.S. 36 through Hannibal.

Brian Haeffner, area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation's northeast district, said U.S. 36 has seen traffic climb quickly since it was upgraded to a four-lane expressway in 2010. MoDOT tracks vehicle miles traveled along its major highways. Haeffner said traffic between Hannibal and Macon rose 49 percent between 2005 and 2017. Vehicle miles traveled along the entire Missouri stretch of U.S. 36, from Hannibal to St. Joseph, is up 30 percent during the period.

Larry Craig, executive director of the U.S. Highway 36-Interstate 72 Corridor Transportation Development District, said there has been growth along the four-lane highway in the seven and a half years since U.S. 36 construction was completed between Hannibal and Macon.

"They're building a new Holiday Inn facility on Shinn Lane and a Shell truck stop and there's an expansion of the Sleep Inn," Craig said.

In addition, some motels have additions and a new Love's truck stop was completed at Bevier, not far to the west of Macon.

"There have been some other investigations of possible truck stops and gas stations along the corridor," Craig said.

Tolls on I-80 would require approval by the Iowa Legislature and federal authorities, the Des Moines Register reported. None of the state's highways now operates as a toll road.

Federal and state highway funds can't meet all the state's highway needs, according to a study by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The study is meant to serve as a guide for future improvements on the interstate, with the goal of improving mobility, and it evaluated safety, capacity and infrastructure deficiencies throughout the interstate system.

"While tolling is not appropriate in every circumstance, it is a proven tool that speeds project delivery and provides a steady stream of funding for future road maintenance and improvements," said Patrick D. Jones, executive director and chief executive officer of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.

Not everyone supports introducing toll roads. Many truck drivers might divert their routes to take nontoll highways that run parallel to I-80, said David Scott, executive director of the Iowa Good Roads Association, a coalition of businesses, farm groups and local governments.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she isn't interested in instituting tolls.

Iowa State Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, chairman of the Iowa Senate Transportation Committee, is interested in finding an alternative to toll roads, such as increasing truck license fees. Expanding U.S. 30 in eastern Iowa could also help with congestion issues on I-80, and the completion of U.S. 20 this fall could offer relief, as well, he said.

The Associated Press provided information for this story.

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