IBTTA applauds Transportation Research Board’s Report

Today the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the worldwide association representing toll facility owners and operators and the businesses that serve them, applauded the findings of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) consensus report, Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System: A Foundation for the Future, which urges the expanded use of tolling to repair and rebuild America’s eroding transportation infrastructure.

The findings of the consensus report released this morning warns that the Interstate Highway System’s future, “despite its crucial role in the economy and society, is threatened by a persistent and growing backlog of physical and operational deficiencies and by a number of large and looming challenges.”  To meet those challenges, the report proposes a mix of available funding options which includes “a combination of increasing motor fuel taxes and highway user fees, allowing states and metropolitan areas to impose tolls on selected segments of existing Interstates and instituting Interstate-specific user fees [that] could raise substantial funds for Interstate renewal and modernization and help state and local jurisdictions manage highway demand.”

On page 208 of the consensus report under the section titled, “Allowing states to impose tolls on Interstate segments” the report specifically advocates for lifting the prohibition on Interstate tolling by stating, “Current federal restrictions on tolling of existing Interstate mileage are a major impediment to expanded reliance on tolls and congestion fees for the Interstate Highway System.”  If lifted, the report concludes, “states would benefit from having the option to impose tolls, with the receipts being used to rebuild and improve existing high-cost Interstate segments and manage demand on routes too costly to expand.”

This latest TRB report adds new emphasis to the recommendations of previous TRB studies and two congressional commissions that have all called for more flexible, reliable and sustainable funding sources, including the expanded use of tolling.

“We applaud the Future Interstate Study Committee and the consensus report for focusing on the actions needed to upgrade and restore the Interstate Highway System to meet the growing demands of our 21st century economy,” said Patrick D. Jones, Executive Director and CEO of IBTTA. “The consensus report takes dead aim at the biggest obstacle to rebuilding our Interstate Highways: insufficient funding.  The report notes that the federal fuel tax has not been increased in more than 25 years and without major funding the system will collapse. We commend today’s consensus report for calling on Congress to eliminate restrictions on tolling Interstate highways and granting states increased flexibility to raise needed funds to rebuild the Interstate highways they own and operate.”

Patrick Jones spoke to the Future Interstate Study Committee in December 2016 where he called on the committee to “tell the Congress of the United States to lift the prohibition on tolling Interstate highways for the purpose of reconstruction.”  You can read his full testimony here.

Two congressional commissions reached similar conclusions about giving states greater flexibility to toll their Interstate highways: the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (2007 Final Report) and the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (2009 Final Report).  Both President Trump and former President Obama advanced policies urging Congress to lift the ban on tolling Interstate highways.

“As much as we applaud this new TRB report,” Jones continued, “we’ve seen similar findings before in many other studies and reports.  But we continue to lack the political will and bipartisanship needed to advance a solution.  The time for studies and reports is over.  The time for action is now.  We know what to do; we just need to do it.  We need to be honest with the American people about the enormous need to reinvest in our Interstate Highway System, and tolling is a proven method to help rebuild that system.”

A recent HNTB Corporation America THINKS national public opinion survey released on October 15, 2018 found that 73 percent of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes and tolls to fund infrastructure.  Furthermore, support rose to 82 percent when those funds are guaranteed by law to be used exclusively for infrastructure.

The Transportation Research Board is one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which provides independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.