Shaheen & Booker Introduce Legislation to Help NH & NJ Finance Transportation Infrastructure Projects

November 26, 2019

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) 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. While toll credits lack cash value, states can utilize these credits to cover the local match on federally funded highway and transit projects. However, given 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. According to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, New Hampshire currently has a balance of more than $200 million in toll credits. This bill would allow states like New Hampshire and New Jersey to sell their excess toll credits to other states on this marketplace to bring in new revenue. These funds could be used for other transportation needs in these states. Shaheen first introduced this legislation in the 115th Congress

“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 transportation infrastructure projects to make our roads safer and our economy stronger.” 

“New Jersey is in desperate need of a substantial increase in dedicated federal investment to rebuild our aging transportation infrastructure,” said Booker.  “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.” 

“The New Hampshire Department of Transportation would welcome the opportunity to maximize the utility of toll credits through such a program and believe it would be a win – win proposition,” said William Cass, Assistant Commissioner and Chief Engineer for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT).

Background: 

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 on 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.

Shaheen has long fought to bring federal dollars back to New Hampshire to invest in critical transportation and infrastructure projects to fix Granite State roads, rail, bridges and ports. In June, Shaheen reintroduced legislation, the Strengthen and Fortify Existing (SAFE) Bridges Act to begin to address the more than 47,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. A senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen has historically secured federal funding for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant program – formerly known as the TIGER Grant program. In government funding legislation that recently passed the Senate, Shaheen helped boost funding for the BUILD Grant program by $100 million, totaling $1 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Earlier this month, Shaheen announced a $12 million BUILD grant for a NHDOT bridge project on the Connecticut River.