The Federal Highway Administration on Oct. 2 issued a notice soliciting State Department of Transportation participation in the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP), which would permit three states to collect tolls on existing Interstate highways for the purposes of reconstructing on rehabilitating Interstate Highway corridors.
Applications for the three available pilot slots will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis until further notice, the agency said. (Tolling federal interstates remains prohibited under federal law.)
NATSO has long held that the ISRRPP should be repealed because during the program’s 20-year history not a single state has successfully implemented tolls due to strong public opposition.
Tolling existing interstates hurts off-highway businesses that oftentimes are the economic backbone of their communities. Local communities further suffer as interstate traffic diverts onto local roads, creating significant safety concerns.
In its Oct. 2 Federal Register notice seeking state DOT applicants, FHWA said that although several states have received "provisional approval" since 1998 to invest the resources needed to satisfy the program criteria, "to date, no state has fully satisfied ISRRPP criteria."
In 1998, Congress established the ISRRPP, which authorized three toll pilot projects, one in each of three states, to toll an interstate highway, bridge or tunnel. Most recently, those 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 as none of the states was able to implement tolls due to strong opposition from local residents, the business community as well as local and county governments.
Virginia was granted conditional approval to place tolls on Interstate 95 in 2011. Through an economic study funded at taxpayer expense, however, Virginia ultimately recognized that the inefficiency of toll collection, 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.
Under the last highway bill known as the FAST Act, slot-holding states were given one year to obtain tolling approval under the tolling pilot program, after which time the slot could be transferred to another state. At present, no states hold a slot under the ISRRPP.
In October 2017, FHWA issued a notice soliciting State Department of Transportation participation in the ISRRPP. At that time, Utah was the only state to apply for one of the three slots; however, the state withdrew the application for the ISRRPP program slot after it was advised that its application was better suited to a different pilot program known as the Value Pricing Pilot Program. Utah already held a slot in the VPPP, and NATSO continues to monitor Utah’s efforts along with efforts by other states to study tolling.
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