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Tolling and Pricing Program

Tolling and pricing involves charging fees for the use of a roadway facility. The revenue generated may be used to pay for highway operations and maintenance and, in many cases, as the primary source of repayment for long-term debt used to finance the toll facility itself.

The term pricing, as applied to road usage, entails fees or tolls that vary by level of vehicle demand on the facility. Revenue from these fees can be reinvested in capacity expansion or used to pay for operations and maintenance. While pricing generates revenue, as do flat tolls, this strategy also seeks to reduce congestion, environmental impacts, or other external costs occasioned by road users.

In general, tolling involves the imposition of a per-use fee on motorists for a given highway facility. Historically, these fees have generally been flat tolls that may vary by number of axles and distance driven, but not by time of day. Their primary purpose is to generate revenue.

Federal Tolling and Pricing Programs

Title 23 of the United States Code (Highways) includes a general prohibition on the imposition of tolls on Federal-aid highways. However, Title 23 and other statutes have also carved out certain exceptions to this policy. Two mainstream federal tolling programs and two pilot programs offer states opportunities to use tolling to generate revenue to support highway construction activities and implement priced managed lanes on federal-aid highways. Information on these different programs is provided below.

Section 129 General Tolling Program

The Section 129 General Tolling Program allows tolling on new highways and new lanes added to existing highways, and on the reconstruction or replacement of bridges, tunnels and existing toll facilities.

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Section 166 HOV/HOT Lanes

The Section 166 HOV/HOT program allows toll-paying vehicles not meeting the minimum occupancy standards to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

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Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP)

This experimental program assesses the potential of different value pricing approaches for reducing congestion and is limited to 15 slots.

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Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP)

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.

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