A controversial proposal to put tolls on I-10 goes beyond charging out-of-state truckers, as WLOX News first reported last week. MDOT is considering adding a toll for all traffic on the interstate.
But that idea may never become reality.
However, the toll talk is serious enough that the Mississippi Department of Transportation already had an outside consultant study the feasibility of adding toll booths to I-10.
Making certain I-10 is safe and efficient for the increasing traffic flow is the whole reason MDOT is even considering tolls as an option on the interstate. But director, Butch Brown, insists the toll talk is merely an idea, a vision.
He told WLOX News, "Don't paint us into a corner where we're about to toll trucks or cars. We're evaluating, not implementing."
But that evaluation includes an in depth outline about the benefits of making I-10 a toll road and not just for truckers.
The MDOT federal application, under Butch Brown's signature, says a consultant found: "Toll conversion will be very successful" Recommendations include, "use a very low toll rate for passenger vehicles".
In fact, the consultant's recommendation calls for a passenger car toll not to exceed four dollars for someone driving all of I-10 through Mississippi. When reminded of the suggested passenger car toll within the application, director Brown told WLOX News, "That's certainly something we're studying or looking at".
"They put everything on the table, hoping to get something," said Senator Billy Hewes, who chairs the senate transportation committee. He says the only tolls that might stand a chance would be for new road projects.
"That might be a funding mechanism for something like that. For one of our needs that do not exist at present. But to put something like that on I-10 makes no sense at all. And there is no support for it," he stressed.
Even director Brown admits that tacking any kind of toll onto I-10 may well be a futile suggestion. In his words, "It would be very difficult for us to toll I-10".
Putting a toll on I-10 may, in fact, be a moot point. The only program that allows governments to place tolls on existing interstate highways, faces an uncertain funding future itself. Congress has not yet settled on a new federal highway funding bill, so that program that enables such tolls, may or may not be included.