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Three-Day Weekend: Fuel Taxes and Tolls

March 26, 2015 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Taxes, Transportation, Travel 3 Comments

We did a 3-day weekend trip to Oklahoma City last weekend so my husband could meet more of my family — including two in from Northern California. For cost reasons we decided to drive rather than fly. We kept detailed records on costs — fuel and tolls. We drove I-44 the entire way — in Oklahoma it is a toll road.  I think the results will make for an interesting conversation about fuel taxes and tolls.

Those of us not using a prepaid PIKEPASS had to stop at toll plazas to pay in cash. Those using PIKEPASS save time and 5%. 
Those of us not using a prepaid PIKEPASS had to stop at toll plazas to pay in cash. Those using PIKEPASS save time and 5%. Those with a PIKEPASS can also use it in Northern Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Kansas.

Our roundtrip was 1,129 miles (585 were in Missouri, 544 in Oklahoma) — 51.8% vs 48.2%. We used 31.861 gallons of gasoline — 69.54% of which was purchased in Missouri.  Our 2007 Honda Civic, with over 100k miles, averaged over 35mpg on mostly highway miles, the government rating on our vehicle is 36mpg highway. We stayed a traveled a few MPH over the posted speed limit of 70 un Missouri and 75 in Oklahoma.

Our total cost for fuel & tolls was $21.48, but even though only 48.2% of our miles were in Oklahoma that state received 82.17% of our money, Missouri the remaining 17.83%.   In total state fuel taxes & fees we paid $3.83 to Missouri, $1.65 to Oklahoma. We paid Oklahoma a total of $16 in tolls  — $4 per toll plaza stop. Missouri collects 17.3¢/gal in fuel taxes & fees, Oklahoma a little less at 17¢/gal.  Oklahoma has ten toll highways thoughout the state!

If Missouri is unwilling to increase our fuel taxes to fund our infrastructure needs then we should consider tolls. This has allowed Oklahoma to fund roads & bridges while keeping fuel taxes among the lowest in the country. Oklahoma gets visitors passing through their state to pay for the privilege. Of course, if you ask Oklahomans about tolls they’ll say they don’t like them.

Critics of fuel taxes say increasing efficiency of vehicles causes shortfalls in state revenues, electric vehicles like a Tesla don’t pay any fuel taxes. Tolls are the great equalizer though — a Tesla would’ve paid $16 in tolls just like we did.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Greg says:

    Something is wrong with your math… if you used almost 32 gallons of gas, you had to pay more than $21.48 total.

  2. JZ71 says:

    I don’t mind paying tolls, either – when I’m on vacation! Tolls become a much, much bigger issue if you have to pay them every day, as part of your daily commute. And, yes we can get into a discussion about using tolls to manage sprawl and for congestion pricing, but the real answer to our funding shortfall woud be to figure out a way to track the number of vehicle miles travelled (VMT), per vehicle, in the state, multiplied by some factor to reflect vehicle weight, then charge an equitable rate. The fundamental flaw with tolls is double taxation – you’ve already paid a fuel tax that is supposed to cover ALL roads – why should you have to pay, again, just for certain roads?! I get it, the state needs more money – just raise the damn fuel tax and be done with it! Heck, the price of gas has already jumped 60 cents in the last month – adding another 5 or 10 cents, a gallon, would only be noticed (and bitched about) for the first month.


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