Dover -- DelDOT would raise an estimated $30 million in new funding starting in fiscal year 2015 under a plan authorized today by the Bond Bill Committee of the Delaware General Assembly.
The authorization, which was explained to the Committee prior to a vote to approve DelDOT's budget, acknowledged DelDOT's existing authority to increase by $1 the tolls charged on weekends at the Biddles and Dover toll plazas on the mainline of Delaware 1. The toll is currently $2 per passenger vehicle on weekends. The tolls charged at on and off ramps to Delaware 1 would remain unchanged.
The Bond Bill Committee further authorized DelDOT to leverage the new toll revenue - estimated to bring in up to $10 million annually - against $20 million in new borrowing. The added funding would be dedicated to the Municipal Street Aide Program ($2 million) and DelDOT's paving program (approximately $28 million). Separately, the Community Transportation Fund would receive an additional $8.375 million from DelDOT's prior year authorization.
Under state law, DelDOT has the ability to raise tolls on its own authority. Today's discussion and vote by the Bond Bill Committee made clear that DelDOT would not be acting unilaterally or without the appropriate consultation with the State legislature.
"While $30 million in new revenue is only a fraction of our agency's original funding request for the next fiscal year, everyone seems to now agree we need more revenue so we can invest in our infrastructure," said DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt. "Because these additional funds will not be dedicated to new project construction, we will really need to work together as a state over the next year to figure out how we will fund our long-term transportation needs; the problem is not going away."
DelDOT's total capital projects budget will increase to approximately $158 million under the language adopted by the Bond Bill Committee today, as contrasted to the $228 million DelDOT had requested under Governor Markell's FY2015 budget. The $228 million capital projects budget would have been funded through an increase of 10 cents per gallon in the state motor fuels tax and $50 million per year in new borrowing.
Bhatt said that while he remains opposed in principal to increasing his agency's indebtedness without a full matching offset in new revenue, borrowing $20 million and raising the tolls on Delaware 1 will create more employment for those who maintain the state's infrastructure and keep DelDOT's debt trajectory on a downward path.
"Increasing tolls is helpful and was one of the revenue raising options suggested in the state's Transportation Trust Fund Report. We will need to work out the details of exactly when the tolls would be increased, calculate a more precise revenue estimate, and determine how much notification EZPASS customers and other road users would require," he said. "At that point we can refine our revenue projections for the fiscal year based on how quickly we can implement the toll increase."