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Anti-tolling group opposes part of Obama transportation bill

The “Grow America Act” would lift the decades-old ban on tolling existing federal interstate capacity, allow states to divert toll revenue to unrelated projects and require the use of all-electronic tolling, according to the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates.

The Associated Press

4/30/2014

Richmond, VA — A bill unrecently unveiled by the Obama Administration would allow states to implement tolls on every mile of existing, un-tolled federal interstate throughout the country.

The “Grow America Act” would lift the decades-old ban on tolling existing federal interstate capacity, allow states to divert toll revenue to unrelated projects and require the use of all-electronic tolling, according to the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates.

“Tolling has proven to be an inefficient mechanism for collecting transportation revenue, consuming up to 20 percent of revenue generated. Furthermore, those paying the toll may not even see that road improved because the President’s plan would allow toll revenue to go to other projects in that state,” said Miles Morin, spokesman for ATFI. “The option for states to place tolls on existing interstate capacity has existed for 23 years and not a single state has used tolls in this way — not just because the idea is unpopular, but because it’s bad policy. Tolling existing interstates is inefficient, causes traffic diversion, and increases supply chain costs that hurt businesses and consumers. Transportation infrastructure needs improvements, but of all the ways to fund them, tolling existing interstates is the worst.”

Since the inception of the Federal Interstate Highway System in 1956, the federal government has prohibited the placement of tolls on existing, un-tolled interstate. In 1998, Congress created the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Program (ISRRPP) to give states the option of generating additional transportation revenue for the reconstruction and maintenance of a specific, existing interstate by tolling that interstate. The goal of the program was to generate case studies to assess the viability of lifting the decades-old federal ban on tolling existing interstates.

In the 15-year history of the program, numerous states have spent millions of dollars seeking Federal Highway Administration approval. But due to public opposition, among other reasons, not one state has implemented tolling under the program.

“All efforts to place tolls on existing interstate lanes under the ISRRPP have been unsuccessful,” said Jay Perron, vice president of government relations and public policy for the International Franchise Association. “Numerous states, as well as the federal government, have wasted time and squandered millions of dollars through both the application process and studies conducted to analyze the impacts of tolls on area communities. It defies logic to extend an initiative that failed at the pilot level to the entire country.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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