The McDonald's Tollway?

States look at innovative funding resources

It's no secret – in these lean times, states are looking for transportation funding resources in all kinds of places.

For a long time, raising the gas tax at either the state or federal level was off the table. But even the new Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Bill Shuster, has signaled that raising the gas tax may not be out of the question any more. And as I review daily news headlines, it seems that many states are also reconsidering this once off-limits funding source.

In the meantime, states and municipalities are getting creative with funding in these lean times. According to the Concord Monitor, legislators in New Hampshire are considering creating a committee to study selling naming rights to New Hampshire bridges, overpasses and other structures. Such a sponsorship program could generate badly needed revenue for the state Department of Transportation, said Rep. Dan McGuire, the bill’s prime sponsor.

In New Hampshire, traditional funding sources – including a state gas tax that hasn’t been raised since 1991 – aren’t producing as much money as they once did for road paving and bridge repairs.

“There’s a big hole in the highway budget,” McGuire says. “I don’t think this will amount to a giant pool of money, but it will be something. Every little bit helps.”

New Hampshire isn't the only state considering a bridge brought to you by Starbucks.

In September, The Plain Dealer reported the Ohio Department of Transportation has kicked off a plan to sell advertising at rest stops and naming rights to roads and bridges. The rest-stop program could generate $13 million over the next eight years, and state officials think the naming-rights program could generate as much as $15 million a year.

In Virginia, the Commonwealth Transportation Board was authorized this year to sell naming rights to bridges, highways, interchanges and other transportation facilities in exchange for an annual fee. The Virginia DOT began selling advertising and sponsorships at highway rest areas last year.

Does your state do anything similar? How do you feel about bridges and roads being named after the highest bidder? Let me know what you think by emailing me at [email protected] or calling 800-547-7377, ext. 1673.