The federal government paid up to 90% of the cost to build the original Interstate system, a key reason for the present-day limits on Interstate tolling. However, that initial investment has long since elapsed and states face a much higher price tag in reconstructing the system with the federal government as a smaller partner.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is proposing to toll I-95 within its borders to pay for road improvements and lane additions. The cost of rehabilitating existing lanes and widening is estimated to be about $4.4 billion, but current funding can cover only about 10 percent. So NCDOT is seeking permission to toll the interstate from the Federal Highway Administration.
The House and Senate will be taking up their respective Transportation Authorization Bills beginning Wednesday, Feb. 15. Floor amendments and debate in both Houses are expected to continue through Friday, Feb. 17.Several amendments have been filed which, if enacted, could discourage any state from considering tolls as a means to pay for highway construction or rehabilitation.
Amendment 223 by Rep Michael Grimm (R-NY-13) would give the U.S. Department of Transportation the power to decide if Tolls on federal-aid bridges and tunnels are “just and reasonable” and grants them to power to reduce tolls if deemed necessary.
Amendment 224 by Rep. Francisco Canseco (R-TX-23) amends 23 U.S.C. 129 preventing any federal funds from being used to approve new tolling on existing federal–?aid highways (excepting HOV lanes). The amendment requires no net reduction of free lanes on any tolled road.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is offering the same amendment (#1568) in the Senate.
In addition, Sen. Hutchison’s amendment would reduce to two the number of states permitted to apply to the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program. As two states have already been approved, this amendment would effectively close the program.
A group of mostly state roadbuilders groups has formed a “US Tolling Coalition” to try break through US Government statutory bars to toll financing. The new organization went public today with a press release and the fireup of their website.