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Tolling Points

Senate Infrastructure Bill Mostly Positive for Tolling Industry, with Some Eyebrow-Raising Provisions

Jacob Barron, IBTTA

E Pluribus Unum isn’t just the motto included on the U.S. national seal. It’s also a good way to describe how Congress is putting together a final infrastructure bill: out of many proposals, one that looks pretty good from the tolling industry’s perspective.

The bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill is the one that has moved forward on Capitol Hill, which is why, at the most recent edition of Café IBTTA, Director of Policy and Government Affairs Mark Muriello and IBTTA’s federal affairs advisor, Kathy Ruffalo dove into the details of the legislation and what it means for the tolling industry.

“Compared to the House bill that was out there, this Senate version that we’re working with has no requirement to add tolling agreements as part of tolling on the interstates and tolling projects in general that come with federal support,” Muriello observed. “That’s a big difference and a good starting point for us as an industry.”

Beyond excluding the costly, burdensome requirements that come with tolling agreements, the Senate bill also includes a congestion relief program that “advances a lot of innovative and integrated and multimodal congestion management solutions with lots of different pricing alternatives built in,” according to Muriello.

Most importantly for the tolling industry, projects that are undertaken as a part of this program can use tolling on the interstate system. The bill includes a limit of 10 urbanized areas where programs can deploy tolling for projects that fall under the umbrella of the congestion relief program, but “hopefully that’s a limit we can live with,” Muriello added. “In five years if we have 10 bona fide congestion relief programs nationally hopefully we’ll be dealing with a good problem regarding the capacity limit.”

There are other provisions that the tolling industry welcomes—two programs to pilot and demonstrate distance-based road charging, a pilot program for a marketplace for toll credits, money for deploying alternative fueling and electric vehicle charging locations—but there’s still no such thing as a perfect piece of legislation. Some of the details of the congestion relief program have raised some eyebrows because of the precedents they could set for federal requirements in toll rate setting if approved.

For projects funded through the congestion relief program, “Congress is looking to limit the maximum toll rate that any vehicle class pays. It would require that the maximum toll rate for any vehicle class not exceed five times the toll rate for any other vehicle class,” Muriello said. “It also requires that tolls not be charged or varied by state of residency.” These requirements introduce a federal role in toll tolling policy that have typically been left to states and localities.

There is still a long way to go before the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill becomes law, including action in the House, so stay tuned for more insights about the provisions of the bill and how they’ll impact tolling operators and the industry as a whole. For more analysis on the infrastructure bill right now, watch the August 18 edition of Café IBTTA and make sure you don’t miss any future insights by subscribing to the IBTTA YouTube channel.  IBTTA’s summary and analysis of the Senate bill is available on here

Newsletter publish date: 
Friday, August 20, 2021 - 10:15


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