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Tolling Points

Finance and Policy Summit to Address ‘Unprecedented Moment’ in Interstate Tolling

By: 
Bill Cramer

IBTTA’s Summit on Finance and Policy is just under two weeks away, and it’s your moment to get up to speed on an unprecedented moment of opportunity for the global tolling industry.

More than ever before, there is serious momentum to lift the decades-old ban on tolling existing interstate highway capacity in the United States. A policy shift that has been a bright, shining, long-term objective for IBTTA is coming closer to reality.

If you join IBTTA in Portland, Oregon for the Summit on Finance and Policy, you’ll get the latest on a change in practice that would allow states to toll interstate capacity for purposes of its reconstruction. That simple shift would revolutionize highway financing in the U.S., ushering in a new era of tolled capacity.

Supersized Issue. Superstar Panel.

Interstate tolling isn’t the only financial opportunity at hand for tolling, or for the wider community of professionals and practitioners devoted to user financing of surface transportation. But it may be the biggest, and the Summit on Finance and Policy features a superstar panel to tell the story.

It’s chaired by IBTTA Past President Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Panelists include Honorary Member Ed Regan, Senior Vice President at CDM Smith; President-Elect Chris Tomlinson, Executive Director of Georgia’s State Road & Tollway Authority and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority; and Matt Garrett, Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

With over 100 years of experience and sheer intellectual firepower on this panel, you shouldn’t need any other reason to come to Portland!

Each of these panelists has made a significant contribution to introducing new, user-financed capacity to clear highway congestion and deliver safe mobility: Heiligenstein and Tomlinson by building innovative new tolling projects, Garrett by leading an essential pilot project on mileage-based usage fees (MBUF), and Regan by (literally) writing the book on the potentially explosive growth of both financing options in the years and decades ahead.

In 2014, Regan predicted a 400 to 500% increase in the size of the U.S. tolling industry over a 15-year span, with 30 out of 50 states adding new tolled capacity. “By 2030, the number of miles of toll roads in one form or another in the United States will increase to 25,000,” he told IBTTA’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, with 70% of the volume on existing interstate highways. There were no guarantees, then or now, but “if I’m even close, the amount of change and growth will be huge, and the opportunities limitless.”

Three years later, he was back with a white paper that presented a similarly optimistic assessment of MBUF’s future—as an option in its own right, and as a possible future platform for tolling. MBUF technology “can be used to collect tolls, without the need for expensive roadside equipment and electronic toll gantries,” he wrote. And “revenue collected on certain routes, or in certain regions, can be directly allocated to those routes or regions. This may open up new opportunities to support public-private partnerships for major reconstruction and long-term maintenance agreements.”

The Unprecedented Moment

Which brings us back to the reality that we’re living through an unprecedented moment in the history of tolling and interstate highways. In the lead-up to the Summit, Co-Chief Meeting Organizer Allison C. de Cerreño, Ph.D., Deputy General Manager, Port Authority Bus Terminal, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, cast the shift as part of a wider and necessary evolution.

“A number of states are exploring the use of tolls on the interstate highways, while the federal government continues to discuss privatization of funding for transportation infrastructure,” she wrote. And indeed, with the Council of State Governments tracking a dozen states looking at ways to advance their use of tolling, the impetus to lift the interstate tolling ban could not have come at a better time.

“Tolling is one solution for obtaining revenue for roads because the Highway Trust Fund that has historically paid for federal roadways has been spending more than it brings in for a decade now,” Bond Buyer reported [subscription required], citing a well-attended IBTTA webinar to mark Infrastructure Week in mid-May.

“Research indicates that many people are opposed to tolling initially, but often wind up supporting the tolls once they are implemented,” and “tolling the interstates could follow that demonstrated trend.”

Sign up before it’s too late! Register today for IBTTA’s Summit on Finance & Policy, July 23-24, 2018 in Portland, OR.