Congress should allow states to use tolling in conjunction with other state or federal funds, creating a hybrid funding system. Currently, proposed toll facilities must demonstrate 100% toll revenue adequacy to potential bond holders on the new/upgraded facility. Few projects can meet that test without exorbitant tolls that will force diversions. With a hybrid system, toll revenue adequacy is much easier to demonstrate and will open the tolling option nationally.
Shift the statutory language from a project orientation to a system orientation. Allow states to toll all or any portion of the Interstate (all or single lanes), whether for new capacity, system preservation, or reconstruction.
Since this cycle is continuous, so must be the toll mechanism to pay for it.
- States should try to avoid alternative tolled and non-tolled Interstate segments. All tolled segments will be allocated funding as needed over time.
- Once the costs of electronic tolling have been incurred, it makes no sense to stop collecting tolls. Tolls should be adjusted up or down to meet planned Interstate needs.
Many states have expressed a growing interest in tolling as the introduction of more fuel-efficient vehicles has dramatically eroded the buying power of fuel tax revenues, which historically have represented their largest source of transportation funding.
The federal Highway Trust Fund has been able to meet the authorized funding levels contained in current surface transportation only through $35 billion in funding transfers from the general Treasury. The 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax has not changed since 1993 and there appears to be little appetite for increases in the upcoming reauthorization. Most states are projecting federal funding cuts of up to 35% under scenarios that would limit federal transportation investment to current revenues. If the federal government won’t help solve the large infrastructure problems most states face, it should at least provide states the tools they need to address the problems on their own.