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Tolling Points

The Highway Funding Toolbox Takes Shape

Bill Cramer

The latest round of Congressional debate on replenishing the federal Highway Trust Fund seems destined to leave more authority over highway funding with the states, analyst Ken Orski argues in the latest edition of his Innovation Newsbriefs blog.

Orski’s emphasis on state-level funding solutions isn’t new. But he’s updated the analysis to capture some of the more recent moves in Congress, including legislators’ rejection of a White House plan to close an anticipated six-year, US$80-billion funding gap by taxing the accumulated overseas earnings of American companies.

The question is, what’s next?

Congress and the White House agree (yes, you read that right) that a gas tax increase is a non-starter. “With no other revenue sources in sight, attention has focused on shifting a larger share of funding responsibility to the state and local level,” Orski writes.

“It’s an approach that has been gaining traction not just among fiscal conservatives and congressional Republicans but also with the transportation advocacy group, Transportation for America (T4America) and the influential industry lobby, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and its Transportation Investment Advocates Council.”

Orski lists 23 states (and counting) that have taken steps to raise transportation revenues this year, and notes that 21 others were considering tax increases or bonding initiatives as of late March. Most promising of all, “states are using a variety of methods to raise transportation revenue,” he writes. “In addition to increasing gas taxes they are passing bond referenda, enacting dedicated sales taxes for transportation, increasing reliance on highway tolls and financing large-scale construction projects with long-term credit.”

It’s important to note that state legislators are taking the initiative where Congress has been unable to agree on a course of action. What’s even more significant is that the transportation funding toolbox is taking shape before our eyes. It’s flexible. It’s creative. It’s tailored to local needs. And the whole approach opens the door for states to consider tolling when it meets their needs.

This may be the moment that highway infrastructure and finance professionals have been waiting for. And the solution that drivers cry out for, every time they run into congestion or a rough patch of pavement on an underfunded, general purpose road.

For the latest innovations in transportation funding and finance, you still have time to jump on a plane, train or drive to attend IBTTA’s 2015 Transportation Finance & Road Usage Charging Conference, April 26-28 in Portland, OR.


photo credit: IMG_4106 via photopin (license)


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