Tolling: Could It Happen to You?

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Think your truckstop is safe from tolls just because you aren’t located on a toll road? Think again. 

The federal government generally prohibits placing tolls on existing federal interstate lanes and has since the inception of the Federal Interstate Highway System in 1956.

But recent changes to a tolling pilot program called the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program have a number of states scoping out the possibility of tolling their interstates when program slots open up next year. 

For 18 years, the federal government allowed up to three states to place tolls on an existing interstate through the pilot program. For nearly two decades those three states have been Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina. None of these states has actually exercised its right to toll interstates under the pilot program.

In the fall of 2015, however, Congress passed a five-year federal transportation bill, referred to as the FAST Act, which placed a “useit-or-lose-it” provision on the pilot program. In essence, it means that the same three states cannot hold “slots” in the program forever without actually implementing tolling.

Now, Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina are in the hot seat to either implement interstate tolling or “lose” the slot to another state, opening the door to additional state applications in the future.

If new states are allowed to implement or expand tolling, such policies will hurt NATSO member businesses. Increased tolling can create onerous economic barriers, such as traffic diversion and substantial traffic problems for customers. 

Tolls Are Bad For Business
Tolls are bad public policy. Tolling facilities are expensive to maintain, operate and enforce. They are inefficient and raise substantially less money for highways than the motor fuels tax. On major toll roads, toll collection costs can exceed 30 percent of revenue. 

But tolls are also bad for business.

  • Tolls increase the cost of delivering goods and services, putting local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and increasing the cost of living for residents.

  • Tolling existing interstates forces truckstops to increase wages to attract and retain a workforce.

  • Tolls create traffic diversion whereby drivers avoid tolls by utilizing secondary, less safe roads that bypass truckstops located at the interstate exits.

  • Tolling existing interstates forces motorists to pay taxes twice for the same road: a gas tax and a toll tax, leaving motorists with less discretionary income.

The list of states interested in tolling will only grow as the pilot program slots open up and as more state legislatures struggle to pay for infrastructure. We have already begun to see governors, legislatures and transportation officials across the country start laying the groundwork for new tolls. 

States On The Alliance For Toll-Free Interstates Watch List
Virginia: While Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said he will not act to keep Virginia’s existing pilot program slot, other public officials have contradicted the term-limited governor.

Missouri: In the summer of 2016, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna began making a media push to drum up interest in tolling Interstate 70. 

North Carolina: North Carolinians rejected the prospect of tolling existing interstates in 2013. Despite past rejections, faced with more tough funding decisions, legislators are again floating the idea of tolling.

Rhode Island: In early 2016, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed and passed RhodeWorks, a new transportation plan that will create a burdensome new network of tolls across 14 different bridges. This controversial and unprecedented plan uses a federal exemption that is meant to repair ailing bridges to instead create a statewide tolling system. Most disconcerting is that the tolling plan exclusively focuses on tolling trucks. Despite being signed into law, RhodeWorks still faces constitutional, legal and implementation hurdles.

In October, NATSO and the Rhode Island Trucking Association hosted a rally at the TravelCenters of America in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, to oppose RhodeWorks.

Indiana: During its 2016 state legislative session, Indiana legislators proposed legislation that would require Indiana to seek a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to toll lanes on Interstate 65, Interstate 69, and Interstate 80/94. The bill also required the department to conduct a feasibility study of tolling on those interstates. Thankfully, both of these tolling provisions were stripped out of the final version that was eventually signed into law. However, once tolling is floated as an option, it rarely goes away. As of press time, a task force called “Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger, Safer Tomorrow” planned to host a private meeting to draft a long-term road funding proposal that will go before the legislature in 2017.

Wisconsin: In 2015, the Wisconsin legislature funded a tolling feasibility study that is currently underway. The study will reportedly function as a tolling “how-to” document to implement tolling in the state, including suggested legislative language and policy guidelines, as well as a traffic and revenue analysis of the entire Interstate system in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a likely candidate to seek a slot in the pilot program if and when slots become available in 2017.

How You Can Fight Tolls
Co-founded by NATSO and the American Trucking Associations, ATFI is a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations that advocates for solving our growing transportation needs without tolling existing interstates. ATFI is focused on combating emerging issues in state governments.

Tolling hurts truckstop and travel plaza owners and operators because it hurts your bottomline.  We encourage all NATSO members to join ATFI and say NO to tolls.

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Don't Wait Until The Threat Of Tolling Is In Your Backyard.

Voice your opposition to tolling during NATSO’s annual Day on Capitol Hill, May 15-17, 2017.

Members of the truckstop and travel plaza community will travel from across the United States to Washington, D.C., to educate their elected officials about the critical role the truckstop industry plays in the U.S. economy as well as to discuss key industry challenges  such as tolling.

NATSO’s annual Day on Capitol Hill marks the biggest opportunity for >members of the truckstop and travel plaza industry to speak with lawmakers before they vote on legislation that’s bound to impact your future success.

For more information or to register, contact David Filkov at (703) 739-8501 or dfialkov@natso.com.

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Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman's photo

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman develops and executes communications strategies to advance NATSO’s public relations and advocacy goals. Tiffany also develops and oversees partnerships related to the NATSO Foundation’s public outreach initiatives. Tiffany lives in the D.C. metro area with her husband and their two sons.More
Source:
Stop Watch Magazine

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