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Tolling Points

IBTTA Talks Funding as Reauthorization Debate Kicks Off

By: 
Bill Cramer

One of America’s leading transportation infrastructure publications reported on a session at IBTTA’s 86th Annual Meeting earlier this month as the cornerstone for a story on the future of surface transportation funding—and a curtain-raiser for the next federal transportation budget authorization, two years away.

Transportation Topics picked up on the panel’s essential message that a variety of state programs—from new taxes, to different forms of user financing—are emerging as models for eventual federal action.

“You’re seeing the states with dedicated sales taxes, etc. So, I think the states are going to take the lead,” IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones told the publication. “The states are going to be the incubators and the innovators.”

Truck Tolls and VMT Fees

The Monday afternoon panel, Hot Topics in the Future of Mobility, was deliberately wide-ranging, with veteran tolling executive Butch Eley of DBi Services, LLC leading a discussion with former White House infrastructure advisor D.J. Gribbin, Brookings Institution senior research associate Joseph Kane, and Reason Foundation user finance advocate Bob Poole.

“I think we should all be supportive of the four or five states that are seriously looking at toll-financed interstate reconstruction in one form or another and try to steer them in the direction of making this a real value proposition for the customers of those interstates,” Poole told participants.

But “there’s a lack of, really, an economic vision across the country,” Kane cautioned. “It’s great that we’re kind of spending for infrastructure’s sake to get projects done, but I still think there’s a missing piece of the puzzle here.”

One piece of that puzzle, Gribbin added, is to be clear and transparent about the non-infrastructure objectives and benefits that governments and agencies are trying to achieve with infrastructure investment, and the costs of doing so.

Set Your Countdown Clock

Transport Topics notes that, astonishingly, we’re only about two years away from the expiry of federal authority for the Highway Trust Fund. It sounds like a long time, but set your countdown clock—because the legislative debate around reauthorization is already beginning to heat up.

“Members of Congress are scrambling to devise a long-term plan that would be designed to meet the infrastructure needs of state and local agencies,” Transport Topics reports, with retiring House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) outlining one possible funding plan earlier this summer.

“Transportation leaders on Capitol Hill often highlight the potential benefits that could stem from adopting alternative sources of revenue,” the publication adds, pointing to the “dwindling revenue” the Highway Trust Fund receives from the current 24.4¢ diesel tax and 18.4¢ gas tax.

With the reauthorization process getting under way, “IBTTA continues to press federal policy-makers on tolling-centric proposals,” the article notes. “The group’s president, Tim Stewart, executive director of the Colorado-based E-470 Public Highway Authority, said he hopes attendees at the annual event take with them strategies for expanding opportunities and investments in their regions.”

Once is rarely enough! Click here to see all the presentations from IBTTA’s 86th Annual Conference and Exhibition, October 14-16, 2018 in Baltimore.