Booker, Shaheen Introduce Legislation to Help NJ, NH Finance Transportation Infrastructure Projects
Bill would allow NJ to utilize $5.3 billion of unused told credits, most of any stateNovember 26, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over highway projects, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Toll Credit Marketplace Act, legislation that would establish a program to help states increase resources for highway and transit projects. The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a marketplace for the sale and purchase of toll credits, which are accrued when states use toll revenues to invest in transportation projects that benefit the interstate system. These credits can be used toward match requirements on federally funded transportation projects.
This bill would allow states like New Jersey and New Hampshire to sell their credits to other states on this marketplace to bring in new revenue. New Jersey currently has $5.3 billion of toll credits - the most of any state - which could be sold to raise revenue for other transportation needs in the state.
"New Jersey is in desperate need of a substantial increase in dedicated federal investment to rebuild our aging transportation infrastructure," Booker said. "Allowing states like New Jersey to sell its available toll credits in order to raise revenue to invest in our roads, bridges, and rail systems is an innovative way to gather more resources while boosting transportation investment around the country."
"States like New Hampshire have many transportation infrastructure needs and an abundance of federal toll credits that can't be fully utilized. These credits represent dollars being left on the table that could be used to fix roads, bridges and transit infrastructure. My bill would give states an opportunity to sell these credits and invest in projects that will enhance our economy and contribute to public safety," said Shaheen. "The President and members of Congress from both parties have spoken about the need to rehabilitate our aging infrastructure, but partisan gridlock has prevented legislation from advancing. My bill presents an innovative path forward for Congress to support states' investments in critical highway infrastructure projects to make our roads safer and our economy stronger."
A state receives credits from the federal government when it uses toll revenues to fund projects that benefit the interstate system or interstate commerce. States can then use those toll credits as part of their required matching share on federally funded highway and mass transit projects. The credits are not cash and cannot be used for any purpose other than as state matching funds. Despite lacking a cash value, toll credits provide states with significant savings because they free up state money that would need to be used to meet the federal matching requirement.
A number of states have successfully used toll credits to cover the local match on federal highway and transit projects. However, due to the limited amount of federal dollars that states can dedicate their toll credits to, many states find themselves left with more credits than they can use. In this case, surplus toll credits are left on the table, even while costly and necessary projects are waitlisted. Meanwhile, many states that do not use tolls miss out on this valuable investment tool unless they establish new, expensive tolling systems.
In addition to creating a marketplace for states to buy and sell toll credits, the Toll Credit Marketplace would also:
- Require participating states to report on the transactions and the intended uses for the proceeds and toll credits;
- Direct the Secretary of Transportation to report to Congress on the progress of the marketplace each year after establishment and to follow up upon the completion of the pilot program with a report outlining the viability of continuing the marketplace; and
- Direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the program's results after one year to evaluate the effectiveness of the toll credit marketplace.
For years, Booker has been working in the Senate to give states like New Jersey the flexibility to sell unused toll credits. In July, he successfully fought to include a nearly-identical measure in the broader surface transportation reauthorization bill, the America's Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) of 2019, that passed out of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. And in 2015, Booker did the same thing, authoring an amendment to the surface transportation reauthorization bill, to establish a toll credit exchange program. That amendment was included in the Senate-passed surface transportation reauthorization bill but was ultimately removed from the final package, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, at the last minute due to partisan objections from members of the U.S. House of Representatives.