The Federal Highway Administration awarded $15.5 million in grants under its "Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives" program to
six state departments of transportation that are exploring new ways to fund highway and bridge projects.
"Alternatives to conventional financing are seen as imperative," the agency said in a press release, "due to the Highway Trust Fund's gradual inability to keep pace with increasing construction and repair costs nationwide."
The FHWA said its grants fund projects to test the design, implementation and acceptance of user-based alternative revenue tools. FHWA officials selected seven proposals from six states – one each for California, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, Washington and Oregon and one for an Oregon-led group of western states.
Congress established the program in 2015 as part of the five-year Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act.
Acting FHWA Administrator Brandye Hendrickson said: "To ensure the U.S. road system is the best in the world, we can no longer rely solely on the federal gas tax and the Highway Trust Fund. New sources of funding for the design, construction and repair of our nation's roadways have never been more necessary, and these grants will help open the door to new financial innovations."
The seven grant-aided projects will evaluate various user-based approaches to raising revenue, including the use of onboard vehicle technologies to charge drivers based on miles traveled and multistate or regional approaches to road user charges.
The projects will also address common challenges to implementing user-based fees, the FHWA said, such as public acceptance, privacy protection, fairness and geographic diversity. And the projects will evaluate the reliability and security of technologies available to implement mileage-based fees, it said.
Here are the projects and award recipients:
-The FHWA awarded the California DOT $1.75 million to explore new ways to collect revenue through pay-at-the-pump stations.
-The agency issued a $500,000 grant to the Colorado DOT to investigate data-collection mechanisms.
-The Delaware DOT, in partnership with the Interstate 95 Corridor Coalition, will use $975,000 to study fairness and privacy issues for user charges in a multistate region.
-A grant of nearly $2.8 million will help the Missouri DOT conduct public outreach about concerns related to equity and data security issues.
-The Oregon DOT will use a $2.315 million grant to begin improvements to its existing road usage charge program.
-And the Oregon DOT, in partnership with the Western Road User Charge Consortium, will use an award of $2.59 million to launch a pilot between California and Oregon to connect their states' separate per-mile road user charge systems, to ultimately expand the concept regionally.
-The Washington DOT, in partnership with the Washington State Transportation Commission, will use a $4.6 million award for public outreach regarding its method for assessing and collecting road user fees.