When Tauranga's toll road, Route K, opened in 2003, it struggled to get 2000 vehicles a day.
Now, it averages 3800, including 500 trucks who pay to use the link between SH29 from Hamilton and the central city.
Tolls generated $1.8 million in the last financial year, but Route K still runs at a loss.
The loss has grown to $2.2 million, and Tauranga City Council estimates the road will not make a profit until 2024/25.
Mayor Stuart Crosby admits Route K did not meet initial expectations in terms of usage but said it was experiencing strong growth as development around the Tauriko-Pyes Pa area increased.
"It's not about today," he said. "It's actually about 20, 30, 40 years' time."
Mr Crosby understood there was "natural resistance" to tolls and said they should only be used where there was a viable free alternative - which, in Route K's case, seems to be the option many motorists take.
In May, city councillor Rick Curach made a bid to get tolls on Route K dropped between 11pm and 6am in an effort to increase traffic volumes on the road at night. He was narrowly voted down after council roading staff said a $90,000 drop in net revenue would result if tolls were taken off during those hours.
Mr Curach told the Herald his move was not based on any philosophical objection to tolls, but rather an attempt to get more trucks in particular using Route K.
Residents on the alternative route of Cambridge Rd had complained about the trucks' noise, but Mr Curach said there was little incentive for drivers to use Route K because it was not much shorter.
In general, he said, tolls made no sense unless there was an overall saving for motorists.
The council's long-term plan is for ownership of Route K to switch to the NZ Transport Agency but the issue of tolls is unlikely to disappear from Tauranga anytime soon.
Tolls are proposed for both the $470 million Eastern Motorway, which would run from Te Maunga past Papamoa to Paengaroa, and the $44 million Pyes Pa bypass.
The council wants to use $100 million in tolls and a 5c per litre petrol tax to help fund the 23km motorway, and at least $10 million in tolls for the bypass.