Mississippi governor signs toll road bill

| Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill into law this week to authorize toll roads as a revenue generator for new construction.

Former state laws prohibited toll roads.

The new law – formerly bill SB2375 – authorizes the Mississippi Department of Transportation, county boards and city officials to borrow against future toll revenues to construct new road and bridge projects. The tolls would be retired after the specific project is paid for.

One provision in the law is a mandate that alternative free routes remain available and maintained so drivers have a choice whether to use toll roads or avoid them.

The law also authorizes the state to contract with private industry to construct the projects.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said he is concerned any time tolls are discussed as a funding option.

He said the Mississippi law offers a few more protections than those enacted by some other states concerning toll roads. While he likes the idea of a law free of non-compete clauses imposed on free routes, Spencer exercised caution about endorsing the Mississippi law.

“On its surface, it certainly could be on the up and up,” Spencer said. “We still would look at this with grave caution simply because the history of toll facilities across America is that these are un-kept promises. These are commitments that have a way of disappearing with time.”

Some Mississippi lawmakers opposed to the legislation have said that tolls amount to nothing more than an extra tax.

– By David Tanner, staff writer