Our highway system is incredibly diverse, and it would be unnecessary and wrong for Congress to mandate tolling or any other funding solution for every road in every state and community. But a more flexible, permissive approach to tolling would unleash billions of dollars in badly needed investment to rebuild our interstate highways, one of the most vital engines of American mobility and economic growth.
The American people are ready for this kind of bold, pragmatic initiative. Whether it’s the state of our country’s finances or the opportunities ahead for our transportation systems, citizens favor smart, practical reforms that move America forward. And road operators have known for years that customers willingly accept tolls when they see the money they pay support improvements to the roads they drive.
There are two compelling reasons to embrace this kind of flexibility right away. The first is the nearly $2.5 trillion that will be needed to rebuild the interstate system over the next 50 years. The second, as Walker notes, is a reality of Washington: Historically, major reform almost always has taken place in odd-numbered years, before the parties have become immersed in the next election cycle.
Now is the time to begin funding and rebuilding America’s highway network. Deliberations on the shape of the federal budget provide a moment of opportunity for Congress to consider greater flexibility for states to use alternative funding and financing strategies that include tolling.
Patrick Jones is executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.