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Seat at the White House Table Allows IBTTA to ‘Wave the Flag’ for Nation’s Infrastructure

By: 
Bill Cramer

Sometimes, a seat at the table is mainly an opportunity to set the table for next time.

But in the long, steady, grinding process of government relations, being in the room is often a victory in itself. That’s why it was another important milestone for the industry last week, when IBTTA was invited to a White House briefing on highway infrastructure.

IBTTA Second Vice President Chris Tomlinson, Executive Director of Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority, and Executive Director and CEO Pat Jones represented the industry, on a mission to “hammer home IBTTA’s message that tolling is a powerful and effective tool for project finance that offers premium mobility services to our customers,” Jones said in the hours leading up to the session.

In the end, as Politico reported, the White House representatives at the meeting “divulged no new details” of the forthcoming federal infrastructure plan. But the session was a golden opportunity to continue conversations with three Administration officials —Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeff Rosen, DJ Gribbin with the National Economic Council and Alex Herrgott of the Council on Environmental Quality.

That opportunity was particularly timely in light of President Donald Trump’s recent indications that the White House might step away from public-private partnerships as an element of his $1-trillion infrastructure plan. Volatility and complexity have always been hallmarks of Washington policy-making, and a decisive word is not always the final word. But if we’re entering a moment where public budgets are stretched, private financing is off the table, and the need for infrastructure investment is as urgent as ever, tolling becomes even more essential as one of the remaining tools in the toolbox.

"I guess it's an effort to continue to wave the flag about it," Jones said, in the only attributed quote Politico took away from the White House meeting. In the cut and thrust of Washington policy-making, the simple but essential act of being there may soon turn out to be essential for the hundreds of millions of Americans who count on safe, reliable mobility every day.

Next: In Tuesday’s Tolling Points blog, we’ll explore the President’s recent statement in more detail.