A draft document leaked to press on Jan. 22 and widely speculated to be the funding principles for the Trump Administration’s long-awaited infrastructure plan called for liberalizing tolling policy and allowing states to commercialize interstate rest areas, both of which would dramatically undercut businesses that operate at the Interstate exits.
The six-page outline was released by Politico and quickly circulated through Washington, D.C., where transportation groups have been awaiting specific details about the $1 trillion infrastructure plan that the President has promised since his campaign.
The document, which the White House declined to confirm, doesn't address the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund or long-term sustainable funding for infrastructure. It makes no mention of increasing the motor fuels taxes as a means of increasing infrastructure revenues, despite previous statements from the President that he was open to the idea.
Instead, the document exhibits a clear intent to shift the responsibility for financing infrastructure projects from the federal government to the states and the private sector. Half of all federal funding would come in the form of a grant program that would primarily benefit states that develop their own revenue-raising mechanisms in lieu of a coherent and unified national infrastructure strategy.
Another 25 percent would go toward rural infrastructure, and 10 percent would put spent on “transformative” projects. Additionally, 7 percent would bolster existing federal credit programs and 5 percent would be used to establish a federal capital financing fund.
Of importance to the truckstop and travel plaza industry, the Administration’s plan calls for allowing states more flexibility to toll on interstates and would give states the ability to redirect those tolling revenues for transportation projects other than for the roads on which they were collected. It further calls for providing states with the ability to commercialize interstate rest areas.
NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings quickly issued a statement stating that while she was encouraged that the President continues to push forward on infrastructure, the truckstop and travel plaza industry is extremely disappointed at the prospect that the Administration might renew its call for funding schemes that would harm Interstate-based businesses.
Mullings said it is imperative that the federal government maintain its strong national role in infrastructure development and not relinquish its responsibility to the states or the private sector. Mullings urged the Administration to seek sustainable solutions to funding infrastructure that don’t harm American businesses and highway users, such as increasing the nation’s motor fuels taxes.
“It has been nearly a quarter of a century since we increased the federal investment in our nation’s infrastructure, even though all experts agree that this type of government spending saves lives, saves dollars and boosts our nation's productivity,” Mullings said. “As America’s aging roads and bridges continue to feel the strain, it is time for our leaders in Washington, D.C., to do the right thing by raising the nation’s motor fuels taxes.”
The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) called the infrastructure plan a complete reversal of President Trump’s commitment to putting America first. ATFI said that with tolling the President would effectively put Wall Street over Main Street by taking money from hardworking Americans and giving huge profits to toll road investors.
Citing its social media campaign against tolling, ATFI said, “The current Trump plan could result in a patchwork of tolls that span coast to coast. This plan is not innovative or good policy – it is simply a nationwide plan for #TrumpTolls. There is a real opportunity for a long-term solution to our transportation infrastructure needs, but it shouldn’t include tolling our interstates.”
ATFI is urging its members to voice their opposition to tolling existing infrastructure on social media using #TrumpTolls.
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