If they did a Yelp review on the new Route 301 bypass, the newly opened toll road would get one star.
The newly opened 14-mile route that aims to deal with a growing traffic nightmare in Middletown, comes with a hefty $4 toll. It’s comparable with the Delaware Turnpike (I-95), but pricier per mile than Route 1, the toll road that will connect with the bypass.
Commuters typically don’t have to deal with the turnpike, since tolls are taken on the Maryland line. That does not stop Delaware’s shakedown from leaving a bad taste in the mouths of out of state motorists. A southbound trip on I-95 through the Delaware tolls runs more than 40 cents a mile.
It was no surprise that social media posts were largely unfavorable once we got up close and personal with the Delaware way of tolling.
Toll roads generate resentment because money is paid all at once, rather than a little bit at a time through the gas tax.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that non-truck traffic will be light on the bypass for a while.
Delaware anticipated the sluggishness on the revenue side and received a loan from the federal government to fill the gap.
Typically, traffic eventually moves to toll roads as motorists begin to value convenience over costs.
The Delaware Department of Transportation may need to come up with a frequent driver rate for commuters and others for the automated system that comes with no human toll-takers.
One commuter to Maryland said that using the toll road would cost him more than $2,000 a year. Ouch and guess who will be using some back roads?
Route 1 has a lower weekday rate that takes pressure off of Route 13, which runs parallel to the toll road.
Motorists should prepare for more tolls here and elsewhere. Gas tax revenue growth is minimal thanks to more fuel-efficient vehicles, not to mention a growing fleet of all electrics. Tests are underway on a user fee system, but that idea is about as welcome as a skunk at a picnic.
Timid Delaware legislators whiffed on a gas tax increase a few years back and Congress has not raised the gas tax since the 1990s. Never mind that the interstate system is older than most of us and showing signs of rapid deterioration.
Moreover, technology now allows toll-taking on many highways and federal highway officials may be more inclined to expand toll-taking as repair bills soar.
A few years ago, Pennsylvania officials were unsuccessful in an effort to convert a broken down interstate into a toll road. Then again, based on past actions, PA would have simply pocketed the money for minimal maintenance, rather than make major improvements.
Earlier, the feds reportedly put the kibosh on a plan to force motorists to pay Route 1 tolls by forcing traffic to use the Roth Bridge. They now can use alternate routes without penalty.
Your thoughts are welcome on the 301. Simply hit return on this Email message and type away. – Doug Rainey, publisher.