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Tolling Points

2018 Will Be a ‘Very Good Year for Tolling’, IBTTA’s Pat Jones Tells National Public Radio Show

By: 
Bill Cramer

It never quite gets routine.

Fresh from his mid-December appearance on National Public Radio, IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Pat Jones was back January 18, this time with a spot on NPR’s wildly popular, syndicated broadcast, All Things Considered.

His message: The number of U.S. toll roads is likely to increase in 2018. And that’s a very good thing for anyone looking for safe, reliable highway mobility.

"I think 2018 is going to be a very good year for tolling," Jones said. "We're seeing a number of states that do not currently have tolls express an interest in doing so. States like Connecticut, Michigan, Wyoming, and others.” In addition, NPR notes that Texas, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia are all adding new tolled capacity this year, while Oregon introduces congestion pricing in and around Portland.

Interest in tolling among states and regions has been building for years, as IBTTA members know so well. But the latest catalyst is a national infrastructure plan that is widely expected to provide badly-needed but still limited federal cash for highway and other improvements, conditional on city, state, or private sector funds.

The net result is that "states are in many cases on their own," Jones told All Things Considered. "They’re looking for revenues. And tolling is a powerful and effective way, and a very specific way, to pay for new project infrastructure, as well as generate funds to pay for existing infrastructure."

NPR reinforces the argument IBTTA has been making for so long—that tolling is one essential tool in a wider toolbox of highway funding and finance options.

“Many states are turning to tolling after trying to shore up transportation and infrastructure funding with their own gasoline tax increases,” public broadcaster David Schaper notes. The majority of them—26 since 2013, eight of them in the last year—have already done just that.

That activity positions tolling as one part of a bigger picture, in which the impetus is coming from state and regional governments that are closer to the citizens who depend on the efficiency of a properly-funded transportation system.

"It's very unusual to see the states in such lockstep on this issue, especially when it comes to tax increases," said Carl Davis, research director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. But “they've taken matters in their own hands and boosted funding on their own."

While the All Things Considered spot cited some of the standard misinformation from tolling opponents, it closed with words of wisdom from North Carolina truck driver Mike Edwards, who told NPR he was fine with paying more tolls.

"Actually, I think it’s a good thing, as long as they use the money for what it's supposed to be, to fix the roads," he said. "They're pretty rough in a lot of places."

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