Tolling unleashes our economic potential

This week the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) hosts its Summit on Legislation, Policy, and Infrastructure Finance. It seems as though voices are coming in from every corner of the United States: our prosperity depends on highway infrastructure, infrastructure depends on funding, and adequate funding often depends on tolling.

It’s taken a lot of grit and hard work by leaders of this industry, but the effort is paying off. Tolling is busting out all over, giving IBTTA and its members the evidence we need to make a persuasive case during this year’s Congressional debate on the transportation reauthorization bill.

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More and more state legislatures are looking to tolling as one of the most important tools in the transportation funding toolbox. As they’ve begun digging into the various funding options, they’ve realized there are a variety of ways to get a toll road up and running.

Some of them are experimenting with public-private financing, to bridge the gap between up-front costs and longer-term revenue flows. Others are experimenting with new ways of assessing tolls, or using toll pricing to manage congestion.

Almost all the new entrants are leapfrogging the old era of cash payments, introducing all-electronic systems that collect tolls at highway speeds.

The common denominators: All of these jurisdictions have limited funds. Yet they know their ability to build their economies depends on safe, reliable mobility, for people and goods. As Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) said in his 2014 State of the State address:

"Unleashing the potential of our economy also demands world-class infrastructure… Infrastructure investments create high-paying, middle-class jobs, and they lay the foundation for future prosperity. It’s time to stop complaining about the sorry shape of our Transportation Trust Fund and fix the underlying issues."

Markell is not alone. More and more states are expressing similar urgent concerns. At IBTTA’s Legislative Summit, participants will hear success stories from all levels of government that point to tolling as a proven option to bridge the highway funding gap.

The data pouring in from the states shows that more and more customers are embracing toll roads as a way to save time and add a needed dose of reliability to their daily schedules.

When The E-ZPASS Group celebrated its 20th anniversary last summer, its 25 agencies in 15 states were collecting nearly $7 billion per year in electronic toll revenues from more than 14 million accounts/users.

The I-85 Express Lanes in Atlanta saw 20 percent growth. The more established E-470 electronic toll facility in Denver saw 8 percent growth.

With about 5,300 miles of roadways across the United States, tolling is on the move. And with legislators at all levels on the lookout for practical transportation funding options, the industry is ready.

Jones is Executive Director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the worldwide association of toll facility owners and operators and the businesses that serve them. The association is holding its Legislative Summit this week in Washington, DC.

 

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