Diverse development of tolling business models

A diversity of tolling business models offers a wider toolbox of highway finance options, as the IBTTA’s Patrick Jones explains.
The business models for America’s tolled highways have gone through several different evolutions over the last 75 years, reflecting a succession of shifts in transportation policy and politics, financing and funding models, urban patterns, customer needs, and technology.

And with more and more decision-makers expressing renewed interest in tolling, it’s that very diversity that makes it so easy for the industry to present itself as a practical solution to the transportation infrastructure funding crisis.

User financing is often described as one important part of the wider toolbox of highway funding options. But a closer look reveals that tolling is actually a toolbox within a toolbox, offering at least four distinct models that developed in response to different local or regional circumstances.

“A rural road in Pennsylvania, a commuter highway in Atlanta, and a freight gateway in New York all have different characteristics, challenges, and needs, and it would make no sense to try to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on such a diverse transportation system,” says Rob Horr, president of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) and executive director of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority.

“The good news is that each of those roads can look to the tolling industry for a different business model that might be right for them, which means the decision on whether and how to toll in the United States is best left to local and state governments, with a blessing, but not a mandate, from the federal government.”

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