High Gas Prices Bad For Toll Roads

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Road Issues at 3:37 pm by wcnews

Pete Driscoll at his blog Move It! has a couple of very interesting posts on how much less driving we’re doing in the US. Gas prices, aging populace put brakes on driving.

American drivers, getting older and getting tired of paying high gas prices, drove less in 2007 than the year before, marking the first drop in almost three decades, revised numbers confirm.

This cooling down of driving fever has been creeping up a long time.

Steady rises in births, life expectancy, household incomes, car ownership, suburban sprawl and women entering the workforce ushered in a car-happy society racking up road miles way faster than population growth.

But now workforce shifts and cars per drivers are near saturation. Baby Boomers are slipping past middle age, a time when people earn and drive the most. And gas prices, which doubled over the last three years, are set to bust inflation-adjusted records this spring.

The other points out that even as we’re using less gas, the price continues to rise, Gas prices rise as consumption goes down. Prices aren’t likely to drop anytime soon even though US consumption is falling, which seems odd.

Prices won’t just stay high, they’ll shoot into the stratosphere, blowing by the inflation-adjusted record of $1.42 set in March 1981, which is $3.41 in today’s dollars.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration this week upped its estimate on how high gas prices will get this year, saying they could average $3.60 a gallon in May and June, more than a dime higher than last month’s prediction.

Nevertheless, while global demand for oil grows, U.S. drivers will likely continue burning less gasoline.

In other words the US’s demand for oil isn’t the only thing that determines the price anymore. Their are many more countries that are sopping up oil too. But the high price of gas may also cause problems with all the new toll roads popping up, Gas-price impact on toll roads feared.

A better bet, the official said, would be to go with the agency’s high-price scenario, which puts gas at more than $3 a gallon by 2030 — also in 2004 dollars.

That could jeopardize toll revenues needed to pay off bonds for two Austin-area toll projects — Texas 130 and Highway 183A, both slated to open next year.

Bond statements by Vollmer Associates assume gas prices won’t top the U.S. peak set in 1980, which, when adjusted for inflation, would be more than $3 a gallon in 2005. Average daily prices last September reached $2.92 in Austin and $3.06 nationwide, AAA said.

Vollmer officials didn’t return phone calls.

The toll road consultants projections were already shaky enough, but add in age and demographic shifts, along with record high gas prices, and the number of drivers on all roads, not just toll roads, sure seems are likely to shrink. And that’s bad news down the road when those bonds for the toll roads come due.

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