Despite its lack of success, the Federal Highway Administration is accepting applications from state transportation departments for three spots in the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program. The program allows up to three states to collect tolls on existing highways.
On Oct. 20, FHWA posted a notice of solicitation for applications in the Federal Register for state DOTs to participate in the program. Applications are due by Feb. 20. If selected, a state will be exempt from regulations prohibiting the installation of tolls on existing highway lanes that could not otherwise be adequately maintained or functionally improved without the collection of tolls. All criteria must be met within three years.
Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia held the previous spots for nearly 20 years when it was established in 1998. However, not a single proposed program has satisfied the pilot program’s criteria since then. The FAST Act established a timeframe of three years to meet criteria with a possible one-year extension.
“Congress and the FHWA should abandon the call for new state tolling pilots and instead focus on real solutions that improve our surface infrastructure and citizens will support,” said Stephanie Kane, spokeswoman for Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates. “Instead, with Congressional backing, the FHWA is doubling down on a failed program and begging states to apply.”
Additionally, the three states that held those slots had one year from the enactment of the FAST Act to implement a program or request a one-year extension. All three states have decided to abandon their slots.
This marks the first time since ISRRPP was established in 1998 for other states to take advantage of an open call for pilot projects under the program.
Virginia made attempts to toll Interstate 81 under the program. However, that project never saw the light of day.
Missouri had tossed around the idea of tolling Interstate 70 several times over the years. Not only did the idea never win favor from the public, but tolling was shut down by state lawmakers. Earlier this year, Missouri lawmakers proposed an outright ban on the Missouri Department of Transportation from using money for anything toll-related when drafting MoDOT’s 2017-18 budget.
“The winners in tolling are the tolling companies and their Wall Street investors, and the losers are American motorists and the economy that gets weighed down by the enormous burden tolling brings with it,” Kane said. “It’s surprising that such a plan is being pushed by this administration, when President Trump campaigned as, and continues to proclaim to be, a fighter for the little guy and someone who will stand up to Wall Street.”
The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates also notes that tolling can waste 10 percent to 20 percent of revenues on administrative and bureaucratic costs.
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