A Legal-Historical Analysis of Navigation User Charges

by Peter M. Ashton, Sr. Economist; Inland Water Directorate, Dept. of Environment, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; formerly, Asst. Prof., Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Polytechniic Inst. and State Univ., Blacksburg, Va.,
Leonard A. Shabman, Asst. Prof.; Dept. of Agr. Economy, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ, Blacksburg, Va.,
Catherine Cooper-Ruska, Research Assoc; Dept. of Agr. Economy, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ., Blacksburg, Va.,

Serial Information: Journal of the Water Resources Planning and Management Division, 1976, Vol. 102, Issue 1, Pg. 89-100

Document Type: Journal Paper


Toll-free use of the nation's inland waterway transportation network is shown to be a political and economic anachronism. The historical development of this free-use policy is traced from the early days of promotion of regional economic development under the legal sanctions of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution and the Northwest Ordinance. In an age of scarce funds for public works, the toll-free waterway program seems to be an outstanding candidate for application of the beneficiaries pay principle. Equity considerations, promotion of efficiency between transport modes, and public investment efficiency considerations suggest that a revision of this policy is timely. A legal analysis concludes that such a revision might be legal in theory but would likely face substantial political opposition in practice.

Subject Headings: Legal affairs | Navigation (geomatic) | Tolls | Political factors | Economic factors | Public transportation | Inland waterways | Public policy

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