Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Was Toll Road interoperability partly behind Alabama's push to get the Toll Bridge built?

The communities in Mobile and Baldwin Counties may have a little something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

This story was posted on, but it's from WPMI's parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group. It brings to light a previously unknown (to us) obscure provision in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, aka, MAP-21. This is the federal law that also contained the obscure provision requiring FHWA and its non-federal partners to get local approval for all federally funded highway projects through their Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Those MPOs were the two boards that soundly rejected the Mobile River Bridge & Bayway Project in August, after the grassroots Block the Mobile Bayway Toll Group on Facebook mobilized its forces and made clear that the local electorate was having none of it.

The project was fatally flawed and faced years of litigation even if it survived the Facebook Group's MPO broadside, but the group prevailed and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey pulled the plug and declared it dead.

With this story, we learn that MAP-21 also required tolled roads to be interoperable, so that drivers who purchased electronic pass systems could use toll roads in other states without having to register their vehicle or electronic gadget in each state. It's for our convenience, of course:
Congress hoped to have all tolls systems interoperable by 2016 and the good news is we’re close.

“Ninety-five percent of toll transactions are already interoperable,” said Pat Jones, CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, or IBTTA.

He said the problem with not meeting that 2016 deadline set by Congress is that there was no direction attached to that deadline.

“They said this should happen, they didn’t say who should do it, they didn’t say how it’s going to be paid for,” said Jones. “They simply said this needs to happen.”
Thank goodness for small favors. It's one thing for Congress to require states to meet certain requirements as a condition for accepting federal money. They call that... dare I say it? A quid pro quo.

It's quite another thing if along the way, Congress or the agencies it funds make it easier for certain concessionaire enterprises to share the revenues from the tolled roads they manage with all of the states they operate in. Thinking big-picture and connecting dots (with no evidence), is it hard to imagine deals where part of the tolls paid by Alabama drivers traveling in Texas, Florida and Georgia get shared with the home state? You know... so Alabama can pass along a bit of their take with concessionaire partners in Texas, Florida and Georgia when their drivers use Alabama toll roads (and bridges). They kinda already do this sort of thing with Powerball Lottery drawings, don't they?

Thank God we don't ever have to worry about what coulda happened, because it ain't gonna.


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