Obama Administration proposes looser limits on tolling interstates - draft reauthorization

April 29, 2011
By Peter Samuel

A draft of the Obama Administration's proposed surface transportation reauthorization bill would allow states more flexibility to toll interstates. It would end the "pilot programs" with their detailed supervision and numerical limits and substitute broader approval in two major categories:

- metropolitan congestion reduction

- interstate system improvement

The first focuses on congested metro areas with population over 1 million, permitting state and local governments to use tolls on existing Interstate and non-Interstate facilities to reduce congestion, whether by adding capacity or managing traffic with variable pricing.

"Under this option, tolls may be imposed on specific lanes, whole facilities, or a network of facilities within the metropolitan area. The tolls must vary in order to manage demand and may only be collected through electronic toll collection systems," says a section-by-section analysis that accompanies the draft bill.

Toll revenues must be used for the improvement, operation and maintenance of the facilities that are tolled - not be a cash cow for some loss-making rail line, for example.

Any excess revenues may be used  for other projects improving the operations of the tolled facility.

The public authority must certify that the toll facilities are being adequately maintained, that priority for use of the toll revenues has been given to capital improvements on the toll facilities that reduce congestion.

An annual performance must demonstrates that the pricing strategy has been effective in managing
congestion.

The second program for tolling interstates is to build where a facility could not otherwise be funded.

State and local governments would also get permission to toll existing Interstate facilities for the purpose of constructing one or more extra lanes.

Tolls could only be collected by electronic toll systems.

Toll revenues, again, could only be used for the improvement, operation and maintenance of the facilities that are tolled.

"In order to toll a facility under this option, the State or local government must submit an application to the Secretary that identifies the facility to be tolled, describes the project and mobility needs to be addressed, includes a financial analysis showing that the facility could be constructed without the collection of tolls in the case of initial construction, a facility management plan, an analysis of any expected traffic diversion in the case of an existing free facility, what measures are being taken to address the impacts on low income populations, and a proposed monitoring and reporting plan."

Ridding HOVLs of 'green' vehicles to free up capacity

Also of relevance is a proposed ban on granting 'green'  vehicles (hybrids etc) free rides in HOV lanes.

The section-by-section analysis: "This provision would restore the original intent of section 166 of title 23 by eliminating access for low emission and energy efficient vehicles from HOV lanes and strengthen performance requirements for facilities that allow use by statutorily permitted single occupant vehicles. These changes would specify what actions should be taken when performance becomes degraded and potential penalties for non-compliance."

Green vehicles are increasingly cluttering up HOV lanes, leaving many with little capacity to toll as HOT lanes.

see section-by-section analysis provided by USDOT:

http://www.tollroadsnews.com/sites/default/files/Section-by-Section.pdf

TOLLROADSnews 2011-04-29

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