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Tolling Points

States Aren’t Waiting for Feds to Fund Highway Infrastructure

Bill Cramer

On November 4, a number of transportation funding initiatives appeared on state and local ballots. Clearly, state and local governments are looking for ways to fund their infrastructure needs.

In Maryland and Wisconsin, voters amended their state constitutions to introduce “lock boxes” for transportation dollars, so that allocated funds cannot be diverted for other purposes.

(Maryland’s toll revenue is already in a lock box of its own, explains IBTTA Government Affairs Director Neil Gray, and Wisconsin does not currently collect tolls.)

In Texas, an overwhelming majority—79.78%, according to provisional results—backed Proposition 1, a measure that allows the state to allocate a share of its oil and gas revenue to transportation infrastructure. At IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting in Austin in September, participants heard that the ballot measure would deliver $1.7 billion per year to fund urgent repairs and upgrades.

By a 53% to 47% margin, voters in Massachusetts eliminated a provision that requires the state gas tax to change each year to keep pace with inflation. Kristina Egan of Transportation for Massachusetts warned that “having a predictable and stable revenue source helps us think ahead for which bridges we can repair and which we can’t afford. If you put that up for a vote every year, you’re undermining that planning process.”

But three wins out of four is a great average by any measure, indicating that voters understand the basic principle that there are no free roads.

Reflecting ongoing concerns over the future of the federal surface transportation reauthorization, state and local governments are embracing homegrown ways to tackle their infrastructure funding challenges,” IBTTA Executive Director and Pat Jones said in a November 4 news release.

“As we move into 2015, we need to make sure that states and localities have maximum flexibility to use the funding and financing tools that are most appropriate for them to build and maintain their vital surface transportation infrastructure.”

Click here for the latest on IBTTA’s legislative campaign, Moving America Forward.


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