The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) criticized the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) over the issuance of its recent notice soliciting participation in the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP). The ISRRPP is one of the few ways the federal government allows for tolls to be placed on existing interstates. The notice invites state Departments of Transportation to submit applications for three potential slots on a rolling basis until further notice, based on a directive from Congress.
NATSO, which is a founding member of ATFI, has long held that the ISRRPP should be repealed because during the program’s 20-year history not a single state has successfully implemented tolls due to strong public opposition.
“When a 20-year-old pilot program has not been utilized successfully in a single instance, it’s time for Congress to pull the plug on the program,” said Stephanie Kane, spokesperson for ATFI. “Several states have tried to implement the pilot program and they have each come to the same conclusion – that tolls on existing interstates are bad for motorists, bad for the economy and wildly unpopular.”
Previous ISRRPP slots were held by Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. Despite holding these slots for nearly two decades, not a single toll road was ever built. In 2011, Virginia was granted conditional approval to place tolls on Interstate 95. What followed was an economic study funded at taxpayer expense. Virginia ultimately recognized that the inefficiency of toll collection, the harmful consequences for businesses due to traffic diversion, and the diminished safety and increased maintenance costs of secondary roads far outweighed any perceived benefits to the state. Likewise, North Carolina spent public funds studying and debating tolls only to come to the same conclusion.
Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, Vice President of Public Affairs for NATSO, said in a statement to media that states pursuing tolling under the ISRRPP will continue to be met with widespread disapproval from both the business community and local residents. “The public continues to detest interstate tolls, and with good reason," Wlazlowski Neuman said. "Tolls double-tax motorists and harm the off-highway businesses that economically support the communities in which they operate. Furthermore, tolls divert motorists and truck drivers to non-interstates, leading to significant safety concerns.”
Kane said FHWA and DOT should abandon the call for new state tolling pilots and instead focus on real solutions that improve our surface infrastructure and citizens will support.
“Infrastructure needs to be paid for, but relying on expensive, inefficient, inequitable tolling plans is not the answer. The winners in tolling are the tolling companies and their Wall Street investors, and the losers are American motorists and the economy that gets weighed down by the enormous burden tolling brings with it,” said Kane. “It’s surprising that such a plan is being pushed by this Administration when President Trump campaigned as, and continues to claim to be, a fighter for the little guy and someone who will stand up to Wall Street.”
Tolling wastes 8 percent to 11 percent of revenues on administrative and operational costs and requires an expansion of government bureaucracies through the creation of quasi-public tolling authorities. Tolls take a huge bite out of commuter pay, and modern electronic tolling can discriminate against the tens-of-millions of Americans who are unbanked.
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