The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association’s (IBTTA)Transportation Finance and Mileage-Based User Fee Symposium is meeting in Philadelphia, PA this week. The organization is the worldwide association representing toll facility owners, operators and the businesses that serve them.
During the conference, as part of its national Moving America Forward campaign, the organization released a video designed to “help educate the public, policymakers and the media about the critical role tolling plays in meeting our country’s infrastructure funding challenges.” It features both IBTTA executive director and CEO, Patrick Jones, and IBTTA board president, Rob Horr.
“As our nation’s transportation and infrastructure system continues to put a strain on federal and state budgets, funding options like mileage-based user fees must be considered,”said Jones.“State and local governments should have the flexibility to fund and finance America’s transportation system in the ways that are most appropriate for them.”
U.S. House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), also addressed the conference via video: “We need to find some new, innovative ways to fund the Highway Trust Fund,” he said.
The former U.S. Comptroller General and former head of the Government Accounting Office (GAO), David M. Walker, and the former Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, each also made the case for tolling:
“Tolling is something that has to be on the table,” Walker said. “Public-private partnerships are something that has to be on the table. Because the fact of the matter is that we’re facing increasingly constrained resources and yet the needs are increasing.”
Fortuño, proposed an approach similar to the country’s "race to the top" for education: “I would suggest that we have a similar race to the top initiative in infrastructure, to entice states and major cities to invest in infrastructure using tolling,” he said.
Thirty-four state and Puerto Rico currently have toll roads, according to IBTTA, but that does not mean they have become universally acceptable as a highway funding solution. Arizona, for example, has no toll roads and some residents at least are not especially interested in adding them.
The National Motorists Association (NMA) is also among those making the case against toll roads.“First, highway corridors are not assembled by willing buyers in competition with other willing buyers,” argues James Baxter, NMA president. “The state identifies the corridor it wants, establishes what it considers to be a politically and judicially acceptable price, and condemns the land of those sellers who disagree. This is market principles at the end of a gun barrel.”