Toll Bridges and Toll Roads

February 14, 1929

Report Outline
Methods of Financing Highway Bridgfs
Problems of Toll Bridge Regulation
Special Focus

The construction of more than 80 privately owned toll bridges crossing navigable rivers or other waterways under federal jurisdiction has been authorized by the Seventieth Congress since its first session began on December 5, 1927. During the same period, Congress has given its consent to the construction by state or local governments of about 60 other toll bridges. The volume of toll bridge legislation enacted since 1927 greatly exceeds the number of such bills passed at any previous Congress.

The increase in the number of toll bridges authorized has been accompanied by proposals—both in Congress and on the part of organisations interested in the use of highways—for greater restrictions upon toll bridge companies and upon public authorities operating such structures. The proponents of stricter regulation argue that otherwise the public may suffer from unduly high or permanent toll charges, defective construction or maintenance, and inflation of security issues. Many of them furthermore urge that public rather than private agencies should undertake the construction of bridges whose cost may require financing through the collection of tolls. The rapid expansion in the extent and use of state and interstate highway systems, which has led to the revival of private toll bridges, has likewise again stimulated interest in the establishment of private toll roads which—with unimportant exceptions—had virtually disappeared when the first federal-aid highway act was adopted in 1916.

Proposals for Restriction of Toll Bridges

Resolutions urging that bridge franchises should be guarded by provisions for the abolition of tolls within the shortest feasible period of time, and favoring more stringent regulation both of construction and of operation, have been adopted in the last two years by the American Association of State Highway Officials, the American Automobile Association, the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations. Whenever toll bridges are necessary, a resolution adopted by the American Automobile Association in June 1928 said, “they should preferably be financed from public bond issues and should remain as toll bridges only so long as may be necessary to defray the costs of improvement and upkeep.”

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