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For Infrastructure Week 2017, All Solutions and Stories Are Local

By: 
Bill Cramer

When the U.S. transportation community celebrates Infrastructure Week each year, it’s a great opportunity to shine a light on the big-picture funding and program policies that will keep America moving forward.

But it’s also the right moment to recognize that much of leadership on highway funding and finance is coming from the local and state level. That most anything we do in Washington, DC to advance tolling and surface transportation is meant to unleash private and public initiative where the rubber actually hits the road.

More than 20 state governments have increased their gas taxes since 2013. The majority of states have done so in the 24 years since the federal tax was last increased. State governments, and local and regional transportation agencies, are behind most of the innovative work being done to fund highway maintenance and upgrades to relieve congestion.

Infrastructure Week is about building on those successes. But to do that, we begin by recognizing where the real solutions take root.

One Size Does Not Fit All

IBTTA has always taken the position that tolling is one major tool in a wider toolbox of transportation funding options. That the highway system is too complex for any single solution to apply on every road, or in every circumstance.

Even within tolling, there’s a wide variety of viable options and business models—from traditional turnpikes, where tolling is primarily a revenue source to fund operations and maintenance, to a growing network of managed lanes, where variable prices are principally a tool to smooth traffic flows

While many states have embraced all-electronic tolling systems, some see traditional cash payments as the best way to serve their customer base. Maine has moved to a mix of both, aiming to balance the needs of in-state account holders with a large volume of users arriving from other states—or, coming from the north, another country.

While 35 states have adopted tolling, Oregon has positioned itself as a leader in road usage charging, with a pilot project that offers drivers a choice of methods to pay by mile for their highway driving, in lieu of state gas tax.

And while many states have steadily built their tolling systems over the years and decades, Connecticut is one jurisdiction that is seriously considering reintroducing tolls after a 30-year absence, driven by the need for a new revenue stream to clear a daunting budget gap and the advancement of technology.

Just Get It Done!

These and many other examples point to the vast diversity within the U.S. tolling industry. The common denominator is that they all respond to local demand—and local urgency—to build a safe, reliable, adequately-funded surface transportation system.

And judging by the latest polling results from HNTB Corporation, that demand is growing fast.

·       92% of survey respondents said it’s very or extremely important to maintain highways and bridges, improve traffic safety, and reduce congestion.

·       85% see congestion contributing to traffic deaths.

·       61% cite congestion relief and safety as their top surface transportation priorities.

·       Only 35% said their local highways and bridges are very or extremely safe.

Just 51 More Weeks to Go

Infrastructure Week is an important time for the tolling industry to tell its story. IBTTA has a busy week planned - getting the important message out, and we hope that members across the country are doing the same.

Please reach out to your local elected officials and state legislators. Keep in touch with media. Build closer ties to the communities you serve. And deliver the excellent customer service and customer relations that show what tolling is all about.

We have a proven solution to a pressing local and national problem. We have a story to tell. And it’s up to each of us to seize every available moment to get that story out far and wide.

Get the latest on the tolling story! Sign up today for the IBTTA/TRB Joint Symposium on AET and Managed Lanes, July 16-18, 2017 in Dallas Texas.