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Tolling Points

Latest Federal COVID-19 Relief Package Gives States Flexibility to Make Funding Available to Toll Agencies

Mark Muriello, IBTTA Policy and Government Affairs Consultant

On December 21, 2020, Congress passed legislation to provide COVID-19 pandemic relief and to fund government agencies and programs for the remainder of federal fiscal year 2021. On December 27, President Trump signed the more than 5,500-page piece of legislation into law.

Included in this new law is roughly $900 billion in emergency relief funding for individuals and industries across the country in response to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic relief funding includes $45 billion for various sectors of the transportation industry. While none of this funding was provided specifically for U.S. toll operators, the legislation did provide state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) with $10 billion in funding – some of which could be made available to operators of toll roads and facilities. 

The new law specifically allows a state DOT to transfer funds to “a state, multi-state or local public tolling agency that owns or operates a toll facility that is a public road, bridge, or tunnel.”  The legislation expressly provides eligibility to backfill for lost toll revenue and makes such funds highly flexible, including for operations, personnel, salaries, contractors, debt service payments, availability payments, and coverage for other revenue losses. Funds provided for tolling relief are not subject to existing federal tolling requirements or restrictions on toll revenues. 

The Federal Highway Administration will apportion the COVID funding reserved for state DOTs within 30 days of the enactment of the bill based upon each state’s share of the obligation limitations established in the recent extension of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (i.e., FAST Act).

IBTTA has been working with Congress since March to secure direct funding assistance to toll operators in order to provide relief from lost revenue due to the pandemic response and various “stay-at-home” orders.  As part of those efforts, IBTTA sent a letter to Congressional leadership in April requesting relief for toll operators. In this correspondence with Congress, IBTTA cited the financial hardships of the toll industry in terms of revenue losses, new unplanned operating expenses for pandemic responses, and reduced capital project spending in light of these financial challenges. 

IBTTA continued to work with Congress over the summer and in the last few months as a new COVID-19 pandemic relief package was being formulated.  IBTTA again sent a letter to Congressional leadership on December 7, 2020 to request direct federal assistance for toll operators. As in previous Congressional communications, this letter urged Congress to recognize the critical role of U.S. toll road operators in the ongoing public health response and economic recovery and requested  $3.1 billion in pandemic relief funding to the tolling industry.

Throughout this entire process, IBTTA has worked closely with Congressional leadership and key Congressional Committee staff on this request for assistance. In addition, IBTTA members played a critical role by communicating directly with their individual Congressional delegation members. 

IBTTA’s advocacy efforts raised Congressional awareness and recognition of the issues that U.S. toll operators are facing. While Congress was unable to provide direct support to the tolling industry, there is a greater understanding of the toll industry’s operating and financial challenges due to the pandemic, along with a heightened awareness of the critical role that tolling infrastructure plays in supporting economic activity across the country. 

In the coming year, the Biden administration will establish its priorities for infrastructure investment and Congress intends to advance legislation to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs.  IBTTA will continue to fight for our members’ priorities and to make the case for tolling and road user charges as a foundation for funding and financing America’s transportation infrastructure investment needs.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, December 29, 2020 - 09:30


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