They approve 30 years of toll increases in the certified fiscal plan for the Highway Authority

The tax plan that Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF) has certified for the Highway and Transportation Authority (ACT) could be described as a new recipe in the management of road and public transportation infrastructure in Puerto Rico.

But said recipe rests, mainly, on annual increases to the toll system for the next 30 years, as well as multiple budget cuts. Among these, adjust the payment of medical insurance received by ACT employees, intensify the collection of fines and even renegotiate the contracts of the urban train.

The plan also promises a program of capital improvements throughout Puerto Rico, but which rests on federal funds and an administrative reorganization of the assets managed by the ACT that would serve to provide better services to citizens.

In short, the plan is committed to separating the public transport systems and the road and highway systems into two entities (which, from the outset, would require legislation). The ultimate objective of the Board and the government is to separate the collection sources and the expenses that these systems represent and transfer the entire toll network of Puerto Rico to private operators..

It is a plan that combines the government’s proposals to monetize its toll system and a series of recommendations that the Board formalized a little over a year ago under section 205 of the PROMESA law.

The tariff increase will also serve to complete the restructuring of the ACT’s debt through Title III of Promesa.

as anticipated The new daythe new version of the fiscal plan of the ACT was certified by the directors of the Board last Tuesday.

Yesterday, when communicating the agency’s decision, the president of the Board, David Skellstated that Puerto Rico cannot follow a path of sustainable development if there is no good highway circuit that allows its citizens to move from one place to another.

“The transportation system needs to undergo significant reform to reduce traffic congestion, support highway safety, and promote economic development.”Skeel said.

From Rio Grande to Ponce and beyond

That aspiration for a better road system, however, rests -almost entirely- in the pockets of drivers and users of systems such as the Urban Train and the Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA).

The 2022 fiscal plan establishes an 8.3% annual increase in tolls for the next three fiscal years. As of the fourth year, that is, fiscal year 2025, says the document, the Board approved that the tolls increase each year to reflect the inflation rate plus an additional 1.5%. This annual increase subject to inflation would be similar to the one currently applied by Metropistas de Puerto Rico in the toll plazas found on the PR-5 and PR-22 highways..

The increase in tolls comes just as Puerto Rico witnesses the highest levels of inflation that the island has experienced in at least 13 years, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), published by the Department of Labor. and Human Resources. In December, in the aggregate, consumers paid 4.2% more for the goods or services they purchased vis-à-vis what they paid in December 2020.

“ACT’s fiscal plan creates a solid financial foundation to ensure future repair, maintenance and investment to ensure the mobility of residents and allow businesses to transport goods efficiently. Consequently, regular increases in the rate are necessary to ensure continuous and adequate maintenance.indicated the Board, justifying the increase that would come into effect this year.

According to the certified fiscal plan of the ACT, currently, using the PR-20, in Guaynabo, or the PR-52, in the direction of Ponce, costs, on average, 75 cents. With the approved increase, that route would cost 98 cents by 2025 and $1.14 in 2030. By 2051, the cost of transiting that route would be around $2.24.

Driving on Route 66 costs $1 today. Under the certified tax plan, in 2025, drivers would pay three cents more, and by 2030, the cost of that toll would increase to $1.20. By 2051, using Route 66 will cost $2.35.

On PR-53, the cost of the toll is around $1 and would increase to $1.30 in 2025. Five years later, it will cost $1.20 and $2.35 would be the estimated cost of the toll in 2051.

In addition to the increases in tolls, the certified plan contemplates installing additional spaces in both directions on the main routes of Puerto Rico, increasing the cost of fines by 15%, and installing additional express lanes at certain points in the network.

Before Puerto Rican drivers can experience the impact of paying higher tolls, they will travel on a network of highways that ranks among the worst in the United States. As an example, only 13% of interstate highways on the island are considered well paved versus 84% ​​on the mainland.

In a recent interview with El Nuevo Día, Secretary of State Omar J. Marrero assured that the government was opposed to the increases approved by the Board, but did not report any concrete measures to stop the rise. Yesterday, the ACT affirmed that it rejects the increase, and that it is “evaluating other alternatives.”

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