Highway Financing:

Participating States Benefit Under Toll Facilities Pilot Program

RCED-91-46: Published: Dec 17, 1990. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the progress of the nine states participating in the Federal Highway Administration's Toll Facilities Pilot Program, focusing on: (1) project status, estimated construction costs, and start and completion dates; (2) obstacles the states encountered in starting their projects; (3) toll revenue effects on project financing; and (4) states' planned use of innovative toll collection techniques. GAO also provided information on two privately financed toll projects and a California program to test toll projects funded by public-private ventures.

GAO found that: (1) Delaware, Georgia, and Pennsylvania started construction projects, California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia were involved in planning and other preconstruction activities, and Colorado decided not to participate unless it received federal funds specifically for the pilot project in addition to its regular apportionment; (2) although most states encountered limited opposition to tolls, they had to overcome opposition related to neighborhood disruption and some legal and environmental obstacles; (3) toll financing provided states with an additional revenue source for road construction and maintenance; (4) a low federal funding share could encourage states to limit toll use to high-traffic roads; (5) such toll collection innovations as automated vehicle identification equipment could help relieve congestion at toll plazas; (6) Virginia, Illinois, and Missouri were considering privately financed toll road projects; and (7) California recently passed legislation to test public-private funding ventures for road construction.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Title 1, section 1012, ISTEA contains a provision which limits the federal funding share on eligible toll highway projects to 50 percent. This share is generally 30 percent less than for non-toll highway projects.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the use of tolls on the federal-aid highway system, it should consider setting the maximum federal funding share below that set for non-toll federal-aid highway construction. A lower federal funding share, such as the 35 percent provided under the pilot program, should generally encourage states to limit toll use to roads with a high volume of traffic that generate sufficient revenue to make them financially feasible. A high federal funding share could lead to an overuse of tolls and cause the travelling public to reject tolls on federal-aid highways.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ISTEA makes toll road feasibility studies eligible for federal funding but does not require these studies to include an analysis of whether it would be appropriate and beneficial to use automated vehicle identification technology to collect tolls. No further legislative action which would be responsive to the recommendation is anticipated.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the use of tolls on the federal-aid highway system, it should consider encouraging the use of automated vehicle identification technology in collecting tolls by requiring states to include, as part of their project feasibility study, an analysis of whether it would be appropriate and beneficial to use this technology to collect tolls.

 

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