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Congestion Pricing — A Primer: Overview

Federal Policy and Programs on Pricing

Federal Legislation

There are three programs or provisions within the Federal-Aid Highway Program that support congestion pricing:

  • Value Pricing Pilot Program: This program, initially authorized in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991 as the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program, encourages implementation and evaluation of projects encompassing a variety of strategies to manage congestion on highways, including both tolling of highway facilities and other pricing strategies not involving tolls. This is the only program that provides funding.
  • High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Facilities: This program allows states to charge tolls to vehicles that do not meet the established occupancy requirements to use an HOV lane if the state establishes a program that addresses the selection of vehicles allowed in such lanes and procedures for enforcing the restrictions.
  • Express Lanes Demonstration Program: This program permits tolling on up to 15 selected demonstration projects to manage congestion, reduce emissions in a non-attainment area, or to finance new and improve existing lanes while reducing congestion.

In addition, there are three programs or provisions within the Federal-Aid Highway Program that support tolling for the purpose of highway financing:

  • Interstate System Construction Toll Pilot Program: This program authorizes up to three new facilities on the Interstate System to be tolled for the purpose of financing their construction.
  • Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program: This program allows up to three existing Interstate facilities (highway, bridge, or tunnel) to be tolled to fund needed reconstruction or rehabilitation on Interstate corridors that could not otherwise be adequately maintained or functionally improved without the collection of tolls.
  • Title 23 United States Code Section 129 Tolling Agreements: Section 129 allows tolling of non-Interstate highways as well as Interstate bridges and tunnels. There is no limit to the number of agreements that may be executed.

U.S. DOT's Congestion Relief Initiative

The 2007 U.S. Department of Transportation's Congestion Initiative focused the above tolling programs toward the overall goal of relieving congestion. The Department has entered into Urban Partnership Agreements with selected cities, pursuant to which the cities and Department have committed to the following actions:

  • Implementing a broad congestion pricing or variable toll demonstration;
  • Creating or expanding express bus services, which will benefit from free-flow traffic conditions;
  • Encouraging and supporting use of technology to improve the efficiency of operation of the highway system; and
  • Committing discretionary resources and expertise to support the above actions to the maximum extent possible, including transit Small Starts funds, Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) funds, and Value Pricing Pilot Program funds.