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Tolling Points

IBTTA Finance and Policy Summit Captures 'Unprecedented Moment' for Tolling

By: 
Bill Cramer

From tolling of existing interstate capacity to the rise of road usage charging, the funding crunch facing U.S. infrastructure is bringing new attention and creativity to a full toolbox of options to pay for highway maintenance, expansion, and construction.

Allison L. C. de Cerreño, Ph.D., Deputy General Manager, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and James Whitty, Partner at D’Artagnan Consulting, LLP are co-Chief Meeting Organizers for IBTTA’s Summit on Finance and Policy, July 22-24, 2018 in Portland, OR. In email interviews with Tolling Points, they explore the emerging issues and shining opportunities that make the Summit a must-attend event.

Lifting the Ban on Interstate Tolling

The Summit takes place at an unprecedented moment when policy-makers across the political spectrum seem more open to lifting the long-standing ban on tolling of interstate highway capacity to fund its reconstruction. C. de Cerreño sees that discussion 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 writes. “In this context, participants will hear about several recent initiatives in different states, the status of discussions, and lessons for navigating the federal and local landscapes.”

A Wider Menu of Issues

Although the moment of opportunity may be unprecedented, the Summit will also explore the wider mix of issues confronting the tolling industry and the wider surface infrastructure community.

“The key near-term challenge remains how to keep up with the ever-growing portfolio of state of good repair, enhancement and expansion needs amidst economic constraints and increased societal demands for real-time and varied information,” C. de Cerreño notes.

Over the medium to longer term, she adds, the focus will shift to disruptive technologies and processes that transportation professionals are just beginning to fathom.

“Imagine, for example, the impact on travel patterns as virtual reality becomes more mainstream amid upcoming generations that are already tied to technology – might people opt to ‘virtually’ travel, to get the experience without the hassle of delay or other worries?” she asks. “Sounds far-fetched, but it could significantly disrupt travel patterns.”

And yet, even in the midst of massive disruption and transformation, “opportunities abound” for better customer service, safer and more affordable maintenance through robotics, and for “becoming more nimble in our approaches,” she writes. “The key is to figure out how to get on the ascending curve of these changing technologies and processes at just the right time, so we can harness opportunities without going down the wrong track.”

A Living Example of Innovation

The Summit will take place in Portland, Oregon, in a state that has been at the forefront of testing and refining systems for charging highway users based on their vehicle miles travelled. “Participants in the conference will learn that road usage charging has come a long way from its inception early last decade,” Whitty says. “Oregon has an operational road charge system that works, and California and Washington state have used that system and augmented it to make it better and more acceptable for ultimate adoption.”

Two key takeaways participants can expect from the Summit: “The remaining limitations for adoption of mandatary road usage charging legislation are largely political rather than technical,” Whitty states. And “Oregon is researching an open tolling system that can enable congestion pricing” within the state’s OReGO road usage charging program.

It’s Always About Trust and Accountability

C. de Cerreño sees IBTTA’s theme for 2018, Trust and Accountability, reflected in Summit sessions on the public perspective, and on collecting revenue on behalf of others.

“In an industry that is relatively small, yet spread out, hearing from the public is critical and shows a genuine interest in developing trust with our stakeholders,” she writes. “Importantly, even as we share a lot in the industry, developing formal business relations and processes across institutional or jurisdictional boundaries remains a challenge. Seeing how this has been done speaks to the importance of building both trust and accountability, with each other and with the public.”

Sign up today for IBTTA’s Summit on Finance & Policy, July 22-24, 2018 in Portland, OR.

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