FHWA toll $-statistics a mess - they say tables linked improperly (ADDITION)

March 13, 2011

The Federal Highway Administration have made a serious mess of their latest effort to compile toll revenue statistics. The numbers for tolls in table HF-1 9.4.2. 'Revenues used for highways, all levels of government' have a column Road and Crossing Tolls that has $861m of tolls collected in Alabama. (We'll go through the suspects states in alphabetical order.) See FHWA response at end in FOLLOWUP.

The only toll facilities in Alabama are privately owned bridges. Developed by Jim Allen formerly United Toll Systems they are now owned By American Roads LLC. We're checking their revenues but we're sure it falls way short of the Feds number $861m.

Arizona is credited with over a billion dollars in tolls ($1038m). We can't think of any toller in Arizona. Not one.

The same for Connecticut credited with $655m in tolls. Darned if we can think of who might be collecting these.

The District of Columbia knocked out $92.7m in tolls, FHWA report. This is a terrible reflection on the quality of our reporting at TOLLROADSnews. We've never reported a toller down the road in Washington DC.

We must concede FHWA people ARE closer than us to DC tolling.

Hawaii $127m. Maybe they have a toll tunnel to the Big Island? We'll have to investigate that.

Idaho also. They collected $372m, FHWA's table says. They must be the Delaware of the Rockies, living off tolls on all that passing interstate traffic.

Kentucky used to have a bunch of parkway style tollroads for sure but we doubt they ever pipped the billion dollar a year figure. FHWA has them down as $1,169m. We thought they ceased tolls well before 2008.

Michigan: now we know that favorite son of Detroit, Matty Moroun rakes in the tolls on his Ambassador Bridge. And there's Blue Water and Mackinaw bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

 $100m, perhaps $120m, then halve the numbers to credit the Canadian share, say $50m to $60m.

Nah, FHWA says Michigan raked in $1,821m.

Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin are also over the billion dollar level in annual tolls.

True Minneapolis has some toll lanes. Otherwise not much. Tennessee and Wisconsin, they're positively toll-impoverished.

South Dakota raises $148.5m in tolls, Vermont $150.7m and Wyoming $165.6m?

California  with $5315m and Florida at $4,416m are the country's biggest tolling states, positions we always thought were held by New York and New Jersey.

The total in the toll revenues column for all 52 states and territories in HF-1 is $62.2b, about double the number for the federal gas tax and other user tax revenues - $33.6b. (MEMO Stef: there are some great numbers here for the ad pitches. PSam)



We moved with fascination aroused to FHWA's table SF-3B 9.4.9. Receipts of state-administered toll road and crossing facilities. On a state by state basis the numbers here are heavily marked down from the HF-1 table and generally more reasonable.

Hudson River Crossings are attributed to New York State Bridge Authority. So much for the George Washington Bridge, and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.

We thought they'd missed the nation's second toller Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but it is there, and they say it operates "Manhattan and Staten Island Crossings."

Take that Gov Chris Christie.

You thought you guys in New Jersey were half of that operation and that these crossings landed in places like Ft Lee NJ (GW Bridge), Weehawken NJ (Lincoln Tunnel) and Jersey City NJ (Holland Tunnel).

Nah, PANYNJ - as far as the Feds are concerned - is strictly a New York operation, just those "Manhattan and Staten Island crossings."

Really intriguing is Footnote 9 in this table: "Includes the George Washington, Bayonne and Goethals Bridges; Holland and Lincoln Tunnels."

Footnote 9 locates these PANYNJ crossings in North Carolina.

But the FHWA statisticians have a bigger problem. They don't seem to be able to handle the concept of bistate and binational tollers. Not that the PANYNJ should be put down as a New York/North Carolina operation, we hasten to add.

Guys many borders are rivers, and rivers need crossings, and being big expensive crossings, they're usually tolled.

Think not only the tidal Hudson River (NY/NJ) but the Delaware River (NJ-PA, NJ-DE). Not just state borders but national. The Rio Grande has a whole heap of binational Texas and Mexican tollers, and the Detroit, Niagara and St Lawrence Rivers have joint US-Canadian tollers.

FHWA seem to arbitrarily allocate bistate tollers to one state or the other. DRJTBC on the upper Delaware NJ-PA is a bistate toller equally owned by NJ and PA. Its head office is in East Stroudsburg PA, but FHWA calls it a New Jersey toller. Not a cent of its revenue is called Pennsylvania tolls by FHWA.

It works the other way too.

Delaware River Port Authority according to the FHWA tables is 100% a Pennsylvania toller and all its tolls are stuck in the PA column. This despite the fact that its head offices are in Camden NJ, most of its tollpayers are New Jerseyites and, like DRJTBC, DRPA's board of directors are equally split between the two states.

FHWA has trouble too handling privately operated toll facilities. Indiana Toll Road is operated by Indiana Transportation Finance Authority they say, not a Cintra/Macquarie joint venture that seems to be reported in the annual reports of those companies.  The Dulles Greenway VA and the Chicago Skyway IL by contrast don't seem to get any mention at all.

State operated tollers in 2008 garnered $8,555m in total.


The FHWA make an odd distinction between state and local tollers.  The largest local government toller is put down as Triborough Bridges & Tunnels at $1,247m in tolls. It is actually a fully owned subsidiary or division of a state entity, part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which describes itself as "A public benefit corporation chartered by the State of New York." Its commissioners are nominated by the state governor and confirmed by the state senate.

It is put down by FHWA as local government.

By contrast North Texas Tollway Authority whose board of directors are appointed by four constituent counties is classified by FHWA as a state, not a local, entity.  

To some extent the state/local distinction is arbitrary. Many have a bit of both state and local character - state charter and local governance.

Local bridge and tunnel revenues (dominated by the MTAB&T or Triborough B&T) are put at $1542m, and local tollroads at $807m.


By our arithmetic that's adds up to total US-wide tolls of $10,904m (we left out ferries) - a much more probable number than the $62,212m of HF-1.

Another problem: FHWA statisticians cannot maintain consistency about what year's data they are handling. Highway Statistics 2008 in some tables refers to numbers from 2007, sometimes to those of 2008.

Guys why not make it simple and give us just the numbers of the year in your heading.

2008 apparently are the very latest year for which the Feds can compile numbers, although all the tollers have 2009 financial reports out, and many 2010 reports.

And remember these are the people who federal law entrusts with the power to decide which roads should be tolled and which shouldn't, and who do all that permitting of new roads solemnly called a Record of Decision.

FOLLOWUP: Doug Hecox of FHWA Public Affairs emails: "We saw your recent article on toll revenues, and we've found that the tables are linked improperly.  We will get back to you this week with the correct information. In the meanwhile, please remove article (and tables) from your Web site.  It's clearly an error that will mislead your readers and soon be corrected."

We told Mr Hecox: "Thanks Mr Hecox, I'm glad you've discovered the source of the ridiculously erroneous HF-1 table but surprised it would make it to your website.  Don't you have anyone who knows tolls sufficiently to see at a glance the implausibility of what you published? I'm pleased to inform my readers of your moves to correct the table and will tell them when it is corrected. However you still have serious problems in the other tables, especially in your strange treatment of bistate, and binational toll agencies, in loose descriptions of their toll facilities, and in the quite artificial distinctions between state and local toll agencies. My article will remain there, but with news of the changes you make as you make them - editor."

TOLLROADSnews 2011-03-13 FOLLOWUP-1: 2011-03-14 14:30

Further Reading

Leave a comment:

Upcoming Events