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US tolling lobby: private capital should be explored

A start-up organisation is aiming to loosen resistance to tolling on Capitol Hill. Private investment in public infrastructure would be part of the discussion.

A newly established 14-state organisation is determined to “break through” perceived federal government opposition to tolling – and public-private partnership (PPP) financing is part of its incipient agenda.

The US Tolling Coalition is a “diverse group of public- and private-sector” interest that debuted with a website, ustollingcoalition.com, a week ago.

Coalition co-head Donald Shubert said his organisation will first aim to urge US Congress to reconsider a prohibition on tolling, enabling further dialogue on “revenue generating infrastructure” and PPP legislation to be debated on Capitol Hill.

Shubert cited his home state, Connecticut, which in October passed a bill to better facilitate PPP activity as part of a wider job creation initiative.

“[But] tolling is inherently controversial,” explained Connecticut Road Builders Association president Schubert. “In Washington, D,C,, there is a lot of disagreement”.

Schubert pointed out government financing paid for 90 percent of interstate construction via the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, a solution he deemed no longer viable. With state revenue shrinking nationwide, tolling is a sensible funding alternative, he said.

Nevada, for example, has a dearth of tolled roadwork. Puerto Rico and Virginia, meanwhile, have accepted tolling.

Shubert also stressed that gas and fuel tax is no longer a reliable funding option, and noted a brownfield project – or a project to refurbish existing infrastructure – can be more expensive than building new infrastructure.

Shubert is running his organisation alongside Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association head Pat Goss, who Shubert credited as a “workhorse”.