Tolling agencies delaying capital projects due to decline in revenue

May 26, 2020

Executives discuss COVID-19 impacts to toll roads during virtual briefing

Toll road executives from around the nation during a virtual event discussed plans to reduce or suspend capital investments this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The virtual panel discussion was hosted by the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) on May 21. During the briefing, national, state, and regional tolling and transportation leaders discussed how COVID-19 social distancing and stay-at-home measures have led to the reduction in traffic and revenues of upwards of 90%, impacting the industry, the American driving public, the nation's roads and bridges, and the future of transportation in the country.  

Mark Compton, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, noted that his organization plans to reduce capital investments by 24% and focus what remains on maintaining its 552-mile system, not expanding it to improve performance. “While revenue is now increasing by 2% to 3% a week, we had to put many capital projects on hold and we’re looking at our operating budget, cutting anything that we can cut," Compton said during the discussion.

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey DOT, said traffic volumes of revenues on her state’s toll roads were down 61.5%and 61.6%, respectively. Year-over-year, for the four-month period of January through April, toll road traffic volumes are down 22.5% and revenues down 21.9% or $108 million in 2020 versus 2019. Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the state DOT has issued several revenue bonds to provide cash flow relief since the state is taking no actions to reduce its operating budget this year or next.

Samuel Johnson, CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies toll road authority in California, said revenue for his agency has dropped 70% to 80%. As a result, the agency is cutting its capital budget by 51% for next year by some $78 million lower versus 2019.

Tim Stewart, executive director of Colorado’s E-470 Public Highway Authority, noted that his agency has slashed its operating budget by 10% across the board and its capital budget by 12%, pushing some projects out to 2021 and 2022.