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December 8, 2016 12:30 PM, EST

Former Gov. Ed Rendell: New Tolls on Interstates Ideal for Infrastructure Projects

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON  Allowing states to establish tolling facilities on existing interstate highways would help finance large-scale infrastructure projects, the former governor of Pennsylvania argued while on a panel here on Dec. 8.

“You need to get the private sector involved. Private sector is not going to get involved without a reasonable rate of return. Tolling is a way to do that,” former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat and co-chairman of a group that advocates for more infrastructure funding, said. “Let the states toll if they want to toll.”

Rendell was responding to concerns raised by the majority of the transportation sector over a lack of funding to finance roadways and bridges. He was speaking at a summit hosted by The Atlantic at the Newseum.

On the flip side, the trucking industry is staunchly opposed to adding tolls on existing federal highways. “You toll existing roads and bridges, we’re going to fight that until the end,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear told Transport Topics this week.

Under federal law, the addition of tolls on existing interstates is prohibited. Proponents of tolling, however, point to a federal program that allows a trio of states to place tolls on existing lanes within their boundaries. The argument over whether to pursue tolling as a financial tool for infrastructure is likely to come up in Congress when policymakers set out to craft a funding fix for a transportation account.

“If you’ve got major bridge projects or major reconstruction projects, tolling is a terrific tool for project finance. And it’s also a great tool, as we’re learning, in states all around the country for managed lanes  express lanes  for moving congestion,” Patrick Jones, chief executive of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, told Transport Topics last week.