You are here

Tim Stewart to Stress Trust, Accountability as IBTTA’s 2018 President

By: 
Bill Cramer

Tim Stewart, Executive Director of the E-470 Public Highway Authority, is preparing to take the helm as IBTTA’s 2018 President. In this interview with Tolling Points, he explains how he chose Trust and Accountability as the theme for his presidential year, and what he hopes to achieve during his term.

How did you arrive at Trust and Accountability as your presidential theme?

TS: As Pat Jones, IBTTA’s Executive Director and CEO, and I brainstormed themes for the year, one of the items that surfaced was the hesitancy or reluctance in many jurisdictions to embrace tolling. We talked about why that would be, looked at the underlying issues, and realized that some of it might be that people really don’t understand our industry. They don’t appreciate what tolling brings to the marketplace, what tolling brings to transportation, or the opportunities it creates for economic development.

As an industry, we deliver an extremely good, valuable product. The outcome has always been very favorable, very positive for communities that have used and experienced tolls. But if we are to fulfill that promise, people have to trust what we do. It’s taking time for customers and communities to understand that we offer a dependable, viable solution to meet demand for transportation and economic growth.

And that leads into accountability. If you trust someone to do something, they have to deliver. If we don’t deliver, we jeopardize the trust people place in us. So we build trust by what we do, hold ourselves accountable for what we promise to do, and invite others to hold us accountable. That’s the bedrock of what we do.

So trust and accountability is a two-way street?

TS: It is, and it operates at all levels.

Through its various committees and outreach efforts, IBTTA advocates for tolling where it makes sense as a local solution. When we’re given the opportunity to perform, we have to deliver. IBTTA’s government affairs committee communicates with elected leaders from the White House on down, delivering the message that, yes, we’re a viable solution. Our international task force is doing the same in Europe, India, other parts of Asia, and other areas where tolling can contribute. Wherever we go, we lead with trust and accountability.

You said tolling drives economic development. Is that a central part of your message?

TS: No one should ever just build a tolled facility without demand. It has to be linked to people’s willingness to pay, and the reason they’re willing to pay is that there’s an identified need. There’s an economic opportunity.

E-470 has produced a $38.4-billion increase in real estate value along the corridor since 1986, and the road accounts for 12% of the annual economic activity across the six-county Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area. That’s outstanding, but it’s not unusual. It’s just what tolling does for a local or regional economy.

In Metro Denver, a tax-supported roadway could have achieved the same thing, but it would absolutely not have been built, if not for tolling, due to a lack of available funding. So the counties and local governments in the region took a very bold leap of faith. They saw this roadway as the future, and they supported it—politically, and to some extent in the initial stages, financially. History has proven them right.

There isn’t going to be one silver bullet that will solve every problem in surface transportation. I’m not at all advocating that every road, bridge or tunnel should be tolled—that just makes no sense. But I am advocating that tolling has to be a part of the discussion.

How do you see your theme playing out in IBTTA’s longer-term planning?

TS: The association will likely review and revisit its strategic plan in 2018, to make sure it still serves the needs of our constituency. That process will be a catalyst for our committees to look at their strategies for the next five years, and I expect trust and accountability will be an important part of that discussion.

We want to continue providing a loud, proud voice for tolling. We want to be advocates for surface transportation. We want to help our communities grow and develop. We want to be trusted so we can get the job done, and that means asking people to hold us accountable for what we say we’re going to do. The strategic plan review will make sure we’re still relevant, still delivering, and that the association is accountable to its members. We’ll be launching that process from the Board meeting early next year. It is going to be an exciting year!

Click here to learn more about IBTTA’s advocacy on behalf of the global tolling industry.