States Continue to Eye Tolling

Although Congress passed a 5-year highway bill in late 2015, state departments of transportation (DOTs) continue searching for ways to increase highway investment. Several states are exploring tolling options on interstate highways as a possible funding mechanism.

NATSO has worked diligently over many years to protect existing highway toll-free lane capacity. Virtually all conversions of toll-free interstate highways require reconstruction, replacement, or rehabilitation. More specifically, under federal law, interstates can only be tolled in one of the following scenarios:

1)    Initial construction of a toll highway (including an Interstate route), bridge, or tunnel, or the initial construction of an extension of an existing Interstate highway.

2)     Initial construction of one or more lanes to  increase the capacity of an interstate highway, bridge, or tunnel -- and tolling the increased capacity -- provided that the number of toll-free lanes prior to the construction is the same as the number of toll-free lanes after the construction.  

3)     Reconstruction, restoration, or rehabilitation of a highway on the Interstate System if the number of toll-free non-HOV lanes before construction is the same as the number of toll-free lanes after the construction;

4)     Reconstruction of a toll-free bridge or tunnel and conversion of the bridge or tunnel to a toll facility.

5)     State participation in one of two federal "pilot programs:

i) The Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP) permits three states to toll existing toll-free interstates. Currently Missouri, Virginia, and North Carolina hold the three "slots" in this program, but have not yet implemented tolling pursuant to the ISRRPP. The highway bill requires them to relinquish their slots if they do not implement tolling by the end of 2016 (subject to certain exceptions). Once this occurs, other states may apply to participate in this program and toll existing interstates.

ii) The Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) permits designated states to deploy variable tolls to address traffic congestion on all lanes. 

Below is a brief overview of those states that are most actively considering tolling options:

Connecticut -- Connecticut has been studying tolling for many years. A recent state-funded study recommended a combination of value-priced tolling (all lanes, all vehicles) plus widening to increase the capacity and minimize congestion on I-95. Connecticut is also considering tolling to finance capacity increases on I-84 and I-91, plus I-291, I-384, and I-395.

Indiana -- The Indiana House of Representatives passed a 2016 transportation bill requesting the state DOT to seek a slot in the ISRRPP. That legislation has not been enacted. 

Missouri -- Missouri is seriously considering implementing tolling as the holder of one of the three slots in the ISRPP. Since the federal highway bill imposed a time limit that each state has to implement tolling under the pilot program, tolling interests in the state will actively seek to implement tolling by years'-end.

Although Virginia and North Carolina were given conditional approval by the Federal Highway Administration to implement tolling on interstates in their states, they were met with overwhelming public opposition to tolling from residents, businesses, local governments, economic planning organizations, the trucking industry, highway users and others. In 2013, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed landmark transportation legislation that included a provision to require legislative approval on tolls on I-95 south of Frederisckburg. The transportation legislation put an end to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to toll I-95. That same year, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Strategic Mobility Formula into law that changed the way the state prioritizes road funding projects and limited the state’s ability to impose tolls. Both laws were significant victories for NATSO and the American trucking Associations, which had joined forces to fight the tolling initiatives. 

Rhode Island -- Rhode Island enacted a law earlier this year that would impose tolls on heavy trucks to help pay for repairs or replacement of more than 600 bridges. Compared with the original measure, the final legislation reduced the proposed truck toll rates. ATFI opposed this legislation. The trucking industry is considering legal action against the measure. 

Wisconsin -- In 2015, the Wisconsin legislature funded a tolling feasibility study which 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 ISRPP if and when slots become available in 2017.

NATSO and the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI), of which NATSO is a founding member, will continue to work with partners on the ground in all of these states to oppose this inefficient and ineffective approach to transportation finance. NATSO members are urged to join the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates here.

 

David Fialkov's photo

David Fialkov

David Fialkov is the Vice President of Government Relations, as well as the Legislative and Regulatory Counsel, at NATSO. In this capacity, Mr. Fialkov direct's NATSO's legislative, regulatory, and legal strategy on a range of issues, including transportation, energy and fuels, labor, data security, and taxes. Mr. Fialkov also oversees NATSO's political engagement program, including individualized legal and political counsel to member companies. Prior to joining NATSO, Mr. Fialkov was the senior associate in the Government Affairs and Public Policy practice at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C. At Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov advised clients on legislative, regulatory, and political issues, as well as legal concerns. His primary clients included trade associations representing the motor fuel wholesale and retail industries, including the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Mr. Fialkov's focus was not only on the motor fuels business, but also the litany of other issues that retailers confront, including labor matters, foodservice issues, healthcare and employment issues, tax matters and data security. Prior to joining Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School. He received his B.S. Summa cum laude with highest honors from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Allison and daughter Lilah. More
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