Driving from Fort Worth to McKinney, Texas used to be free from a toll. This is rapidly changing. By the end of this decade, you could be subject to five different toll segments. The reality of our future should be clear - - Tolling = Mobility. This relationship will drive our transportation future because the Highway Trust Fund is nearly bankrupt (from the Post Office to Social Security to transportation - - the "B" word is in high demand). The fund is backed by a federal excise tax on gasoline of $18.4 per gallon that has not been adjusted for inflation since 1993. We will consume less gasoline (our electric car future will only hurt) in a future where the probability of a a gasoline tax increase is near zero.
Bloomberg Businessweek covered this in How to Get American Transportation Moving (March 5, 2013). The article provides a glimpse of the future:
"Finding a sustainable funding source will take a combination of creative approaches. The first is technological. One promising replacement for the gas tax is a "vehicle-miles-traveled fee," which would use satellite tracking or a variety of other methods to charge drivers by mileage, regardless of the fuel they use. The technology required for widespread use of such a system is years away, and protecting privacy while monitoring driving habits will be a challenge. But the concept - placing the funding burden directly on those who use the roads - is a smart one."
Our funding future may be closer than you think. Skymeter is a firm that seems to understand this. I-35 between Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin needs major upgrades and improvements. So when I make the trip in 2020 to Austin, I have a toll tag that is embedded in my registration sticker on my windshield. A section between Waco and Georgetown has already been completed. The Skymeter systems bills me for both legs of the trip.
One highway funding solution starts in outer space - - the next time you are stuck in traffic, just look up and and think about the future.