NATSO and the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates on Oct. 20 blasted the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for promoting a failed federal tolling pilot program arguing that tolls harms businesses and local communities.
FHWA on Oct. 20 issued a notice soliciting State Department of Transportation participation in the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, which would permit three states to collect tolls on existing Interstate highways for the purposes of reconstructing on rehabilitating Interstate Highway corridors. States have until Feb. 20 to submit applications for the three available slots. (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NATSO has long held that the ISRRPP should be repealed because during the program’s 20-year history not a single state has successfully implemented tolls due to strong public opposition.
“States that pursue tolling under the ISRRPP will continue to meet with widespread disapproval from both the business community and local residents,” Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, Vice President of Public Affairs at NATSO, said in a statement. “Voters repeatedly have rejected ISRRPP tolling programs because they have so many harmful consequences. 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 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.
“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.”
To read the full statement from the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates click here.
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