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Tolling Points

A Year of Action on Highway Infrastructure Funding

Mitchell Beer

In this year’s State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama struck a tone that should ring true for anyone responsible for maintaining America’s highways, and almost anyone who drives them.

“Let’s make this a year of action,” the President urged. “That’s what most Americans want—for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”

Shining a Bright Light

In IBTTA’s response to the State of the Union, Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones applauded President Obama for “shining a bright light on the need ‘to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes—because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.’” Jones saluted Congress for making plans for a timely reauthorization process.

“The transportation funding needs of states are great,” he said. “The resources of the federal government are limited. Therefore, we ask Congress and the President to give states maximum flexibility to meet their individual transportation funding needs, including the use of tolling on the existing Interstate highway system.”

Jones called for immediate action to reverse the infrastructure deficit, relying on a full range of funding and financing tools. “No one source of revenue can be sufficient to build, maintain, and reconstruct our nation’s bridges, tunnels, and highways,” he said, and “tolling is one of the most powerful, effective, and proven tools in the funding toolbox.”

The Reauthorization Process Begins

A more comprehensive approach to transportation funding will be essential if infrastructure is to fulfill the promise in the President’s speech—as a direct job creator, and as a draw for innovation and entrepreneurship. Much the same argument is beginning to take shape around the transportation reauthorization.

“Transportation is a critical part of how the supply chain functions, how raw materials get to factories, how finished products get to markets, and how food gets from farms to our kitchens,” House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said Jan. 14, in opening remarks to the committee’s first hearing on reauthorization.

“It allows American businesses to be competitive in the global marketplace and for our economy to prosper and grow.”

In written testimony to the hearing, IBTTA noted that “today’s toll agencies are extremely productive and efficient in their ability to generate revenues to support their operations and investment needs, while also creating value for customers through high service levels, reliability and mobility options.” With a mix of funding options on the table, “tolls can be an important solution in certain states for certain projects.”

The next few months will be a pivotal time for the transportation system. The President’s call to complete the transportation bill this summer sets the stage for a much-anticipated debate. With $10 billion per year in revenue, equal to nearly one-third of the federal gas tax revenues collected each year, the tolling industry holds an important part of the solution to the transportation funding puzzle.


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