A month before the recession, transportation officials in the U.S. were struggling to decide whether to expand the use of automated toll roads.
Some officials had already been considering the idea.
“We’ve been looking at it for a while, and now we’re just trying to figure out if it’s feasible and it’s the right thing to do,” said Jim Gattuso, director of transportation for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“When we did the [transportation] investment report, we had about $3 billion of capital investment, and we didn’t have enough money for a lot of roads.”
Some were hesitant.
“The toll road idea seems like a really difficult idea to me,” said Paul Ehrlich, former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
But some of the nation’s biggest companies — including General Motors, Walmart and FedEx — were willing to look at it.
The idea quickly gained traction, and several major corporations including AT&T, Pfizer and Microsoft all signed on to help fund it.
But while the toll road debate took off, other options to boost transportation spending were under consideration, such as expanding the use and value of road space.
The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2008 expanded the nation to 10 million miles of highway and 20 million miles per year of intercity interstates.
It also authorized federal highway funding to fund up to $30 billion in public transit projects.
“That’s about a $3.5 trillion increase over 10 years, which would have a huge effect on our transportation system,” said Chris Condon, director for transportation policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
The new money could help the country avoid another recession and avoid the next economic downturn, he said.
In the meantime, a lot more transportation investment was needed to help ease congestion on the roads.
Many transportation projects — including toll roads — have been underperforming for decades.
In fact, in the 20 years since the recession ended, toll roads have made little progress improving their operating standards, according to a 2014 study by the Congressional Research Service.
A study released last year by the U;N.
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific found that more than a quarter of all U.N. infrastructure projects since the start of the global financial crisis have made only modest progress.
“There’s been a lot less infrastructure investment than I would have liked to see,” said William A. Green, the director of public affairs for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that advises the U,S.
government on road safety.
“And, you know, there are other ways to address the problem.”
The toll roads debate may seem like a strange debate, given that the tolls are a popular way to pay for transportation infrastructure.
But a growing number of companies and governments are looking to toll roads as a way to boost economic development, boost investment and to encourage people to drive.
The issue is a growing headache for some states, which have been trying to find ways to make up for lost revenue from tolls and other taxes.
In Minnesota, the state is considering whether to implement a toll road that would cost $15.50 an hour, an amount that would help the state bridge a $4 billion budget gap that was created by the recession.
The state also has considered adding a new toll road, but has not made a final decision.
“I don’t think it’s realistic,” said state Sen. Lisa Kibby, a Republican from the Twin Cities area who represents the state’s third largest county.
“It’s not a smart idea.”
A growing number companies are interested in toll roads, too.
In 2012, the Federal Highway Administration said it expected to spend $1.5 billion on toll roads in 2026.
More recently, the U ;n;s Transportation Infrastructure Office said it was planning to spend about $500 million on toll road infrastructure.
A growing body of research has also found that toll roads improve road conditions and reduce congestion.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said that its new report on tolls was a snapshot of what the industry would be doing by the end of 2019.
It said that companies had been planning for a toll revenue shortfall for years.
“Since we last analyzed these reports in 2009, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use, and more of it is on toll-based systems,” said Jay Carney, the head of the Transportation Infrastructure Agency.
The agency said it has been working on a long-term strategy to help bridge the gap.
The number of tolls in Minnesota grew by 10 percent in the last three years alone, according the Transportation Finance and Economic Development Council, a group that represents transportation companies.
“Toll roads are an important way to generate revenue for transportation investments,” said Richard Wurzbach, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based American