The International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association has launched a campaign to elevate the role of tolling in transportation funding.
The campaign comes as a recent study by Reason Foundation calls for the expanded use of toll financing.
"We're launching this campaign to ensure that tolling is a key part of the discussions in Congress and elsewhere around the country on how to fund America's transportation system," said Patrick D. Jones, IBTTA executive director and chief executive officer. "IBTTA's Moving America Forward public awareness campaign will make the case for the tolling industry's permanent seat at the table when future transportation funding options are being considered."
Overcoming a resistant public has been a major goal of public agencies and transportation engineering firms, as major toll projects have faced opposition in Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and elsewhere from collections of public advocacy groups, trade groups, and local lawmakers.
Plans to toll Interstate 95 in both Virginia and North Carolina drew opponents, and the Dulles Toll Road outside Washington D.C. continues to face litigation challenging the legality of the use of its toll revenue.
State departments of transportation have been sharing strategies aimed at making various transportation investments, including tolling, more palatable to the public. Tolls can help pay for upkeep related to roads and bridges and can be used to back bonds for major new transportation projects.
Last month, Jones sent a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., urging him to continue using tolls as a tool to search for revenue in cash-strapped times.
"With 5,431 miles of toll roads across the country, 30.8 million electronic tolling transponders in use, and five billion trips per year on tolled roads and crossings, user financing is a practical, proven option that can help you navigate the challenging fiscal climate in which the next Congress will convene," Jones' letter states.
IBTTA's "Moving America Forward" campaign will be a concerted effort to spruce up the toll image, according to an association release.
"In addition to the release of transportation-related policy documents, this campaign will feature major events held throughout the year when transportation leaders will come together in cities worldwide to raise a greater awareness of the benefits of tolling," said the association. "Additionally, this effort will focus on aggressively responding to inaccurate and misleading information about tolling."
IBTTA's campaign also highlights a recent report by Bob Poole, Director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation, a free-market oriented think tank. Poole's study concluded that increasing fuel efficiency standards will continue to pressure the gas-tax fueled highway trust fund, the major source of U.S. highway funding. The two-year transportation bill passed last year is not a sustainable model either, Poole said, because it keeps the trust fund solvent with general fund transfers that ultimately continue to add to the national debt.
"Make much greater use of tolling and pricing," Poole's study urges policy makers, "as both a source of highway revenue and as a powerful means of reducing traffic congestion."
The study also calls for Congress to relax restrictions on tolling interstates, something other toll advocates have also begun to advocate in recent months.