• Right of Way Update

    House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) dropped President Trump’s proposal to “commercialize” the highway right of way by selling concession rights for gas stations and restaurants.

    Insider connects the dots:

    • The Trump infrastructure plan said states should be allowed to commercialize highway rest stops, converting rest areas to full-service plazas with restaurants and gas stations.
    • Restaurants, truck stops, convenience stores, and petroleum marketers – major billboard clients — oppose commercialization of rest areas because it would hurt existing private-sector businesses located outside the right of way, near highways.
    • On July 23, Shuster released a “discussion draft” of ideas to fund transportation, including a gas-tax increase. Shuster is outgoing chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee; he’ll leave Congress after the fall election.
    • “Marking a positive change from the Trump Administration’s proposal, Chairman Shuster’s draft does not call for rest area commercialization,” said the trade association for truck stop owners (NATSO). “This is a key change from the Administration’s framework.”

     

    All sorts of proposals pop up to auction the highway right of way, including ill-conceived ideas to allow commercial advertising on traffic signs.

    The California Legislature again considered a proposal to put advertising on the right of way.  In June, the bill sponsor didn’t have the votes to get his proposal out of committee, so he gave up for the year.

    Last year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) blocked a proposal in Texas to sell corporate sponsorships of highway traffic signs.

    In 2012, the US Senate voted 86-12 to reject commercialization of highway rest areas.

    Pressure to monetize the right of way is created by:

    • Lack of funds to pay for transportation
    • Aging infrastructure (roads and bridges are crumbling)
    • Failure to keep pace with change. The federal gas tax is not indexed for inflation.  Meanwhile, engines are more efficient and a growing number of vehicles use alternate power that doesn’t pay the gas tax.

     

     


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