GeoToll CEO Richard Carrier and CSO Tim McGuckin attended a special “Café IBTTA” webinar on August 18th. IBTTA’s director of government affairs, Mark Muriello (formerly of PANYNJ), and IBTTA lobbyist Kathy Ruffalo, shared insights on the current US infrastructure bill which now sits in conference committee where Senate and House representatives will work out differences before presenting the bill to their respective sides for passage in the House, then the Senate, and then for POTUS signature. Some highlights of the webinar:
Pat Jones, IBTTA CEO and webinar host, asked Mark and Kathy what things are in the bill that we (the toll industry) may be interested in. Below are their replies:
Kathy believes there’s a theme, a hesitancy from Congress to use user fees to pay for infrastructure. President Biden does not want any tax increases for families earning under $400k, and the administration views road usage fees and the like as a tax. This will be a challenge. We in the tolling industry have work to do to convince congress that the US needs user fees. We need to retool and rethink how we talk to Congress.
Mark reported that there’s a big carbon reduction program that looks at technological solutions to reduce climate impact. There’s something call the Protect Program, one of an array of resiliency improvement programs. On the topic of toll interoperability / reciprocity / violations, Mark said the Senate bill is more silent than the House bill but there’s no specific language about it. In general, the bill is not the best environment for user pay principles. There are a few dollars going into R&D, but the bill commits to transferring more general fund dollars to fund the Highway Trust Fund, and this trend is troublesome because general fund transfers introduce more politics into the system and process than needed.
The GeoToll Take:
Overall, there doesn’t seem to be anything to get excited or concerned about in this legislation. GeoToll CTO, Jaime Borras noted that some data privacy requirements in the RUC program may be cause for concern – or opportunity for the right company – we don’t think these will adversely impact tolling. And despite the unusually large amounts of funding in the bill, actual dollars going to highways, while increasing, won’t impact the toll industry’s continued projected 4-5% annual growth rate. For GeoToll’s solution, the tolling market – as opposed to the general highway transportation market which is still dominated by concrete, asphalt and steel – is wide open.
And, GeoToll’s message – why tolling benefits from E-GPS – does not need to change in response to this legislation, in conversations had and presentations heard over the last year, we feel that the lock that RFID has on the minds and imaginations of industry players is beginning to crack. One thing to complement our message: the value proposition of tolling relative to tax supported highways can be even stronger due to E-GPS because E-GPS precludes the need for expensive tag/reader infrastructure.