SPECIAL REPORT: Amendment would halt interstate toll program

| 5/6/2005

When the Senate's version of the highway bill is opened up on the Senate floor, most of the focus for independent truckers will be on the fuel surcharge legislation.

But Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said there is at least one other issue members should be aware of.

Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-TX, and Ben Nelson, D-NE, are expected to introduce a bipartisan amendment to the highway bill that would prevent tolls from being imposed on existing interstate highways.

"Tolling interstate highways is absolutely the worst public policy decision that could come out of Washington," Spencer said.

The amendment concerns a pilot program created in 1998 that allows up to three states to toll existing interstate highways. The program has yet to be used by any state.

In a letter to the Senate, a group of agencies and organizations supporting the amendment - including OOIDA - said that there are a number of reasons to tolls on existing lanes of the Interstate Highway System.

"Tolls represent double taxation," the letter said. "Highway users currently pay more than $35 billion annually in federal fuel taxes and other fees to support highway maintenance and construction. In addition, motorists contribute more than $50 billion each year in state and local highway user fees. Imposing tolls on existing Interstate highway lanes on top of these fees would be unfair and inequitable, and would prove to be a very difficult burden at a time of record high fuel prices."

A similar letter was also sent to the Senate by a group of taxpayer representation organizations, including the National Taxpayers Union and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

 - By Terry Scruton, senior writer