States Consider Interesting Approach to Funding Transportation Projects

This new bridge brought to you by McDonald's?

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 has seemed to be 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.

In the meantime, states and municipalities are getting creative with funding in these lean times. According to the Concord Monitor, legislators in New Hampshire next year will consider 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.

“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.”

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.

McGuire introduced a bill in January that would have allowed the DOT to seek bids “to sell naming rights for a particular structure, including but not limited to, bridges, overpasses and exits, to the highest bidder.

Other states are flirting with sponsorship programs too.

The Ohio Department of Transportation this year 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?