The Federal Highway Administration has formally asked for proposals from states for conversion of free highways to tollroads.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) established a pilot program that allows up to three free highways, bridges or tunnels on the Interstate system to be converted to toll facilities.
Following a March 31, 1999, submission deadline, FHWA will select up to three projects for further study. To qualify for Round 1, a project must involve construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation that would not be economically possible without the collection of tolls.
The states selected for the program must execute an agreement promising to only use the toll revenues for project costs, such as resurfacing and reconstruction; for maintenance and operation of the toll facility, and to give any private investors a “reasonable” rate of return for financing the project. There is no maximum time limit for the collection of tolls, but the minimum is 10 years. A state cannot begin collecting tolls until is has awarded a contract for construction or repairs.
Each of the three finalists will undergo a second review process to look at economic equity questions and environmental issues, such as potential changes in travel patterns.
So far, Arkansas and South Carolina officials are the only ones to have expressed interest in applying for the program.
The notice appeared in the Feb. 10, 1999, Federal Register, available on the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov.