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Tolling Points

White House Infrastructure Plan Shows that Tolling’s Time Has Come

By: 
IBTTA

There’s an important, triumphant message to be distilled from yesterday’s release of the new White House infrastructure plan: that tolling is firmly positioned as an essential part of the response to a decades-long crisis in highway infrastructure funding.

Whatever other results the infrastructure plan eventually delivers for drivers and shippers across America, its use of federal dollars to leverage private and public funding sources points to the many ways in which tolling already enables creative highway financing solutions.

And the White House plan shows that this Administration, like the previous Administration, recognizes the need for greater flexibility for states to toll interstate highways to help cover the cost of rebuilding them.

“Tolling restrictions foreclose what might otherwise serve as a major source of revenue for infrastructure investment,” the plan notes. “Providing States flexibility to toll existing Interstates would generate additional revenues for States to invest in surface transportation infrastructure.”

The Message Has Landed

Almost as important as the plan itself is the growing public and media recognition of one of the most practical, flexible tools in the surface transportation funding toolbox.

Not so long ago, media conversations about tolling were few and far between. The focus, more often than not, was on whether tolling could make a significant difference for the country’s highway infrastructure.

The last few days show how tolling has moved to the center of the conversation.

The pace, quantity, and tone of the news coverage shows an important shift in the wake of the White House announcement. Increasingly, the sophistication of a mature, technology-driven funding option is taken as the starting point for questions about how much tolling can achieve, about how quickly and widely the industry can get the job done.

To which IBTTA responds as it always does: by positioning tolling as ONE important tool in the toolbox of funding and financing options.

“This is one of the tools in the toolbox,” IBTTA Executive Director and CEO told USA Today. “We recognize that not everyone is going to want to do tolling.”

Doing This for You, Not for Me

Jones’ comments point back to an essential element of the tolling industry message: We don’t build tolled capacity when we want to, but when a community sees a benefit.

The USA Today coverage shows how that balanced perspective permeates the early response to the White House plan.

“Unfortunately, there is not enough money to be able to pay for all our infrastructure needs of our country,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “We are not pushing for toll roads. We are also not forbidding toll roads.”

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros added that tolls won’t be right for all 60,000 of the bridges across the country in need of rehabilitation—but still acknowledged their ability to attract desperately-needed private investment. “I want to be positive because it’s so needed for this country, and the last thing we want to do is see it die on the operating table of negativism," he said.

Any profound change in practice is bound to produce its share of political contention. But the White House infrastructure plan is just the latest indication that tolling is gaining the support and understanding, for the millions of Americans that deserve greater safety and mobility.

Click here for IBTTA’s official response to the White House infrastructure plan.