TxDOT report calls for tolling interstates

| 9/4/2007

A report left out of the public spotlight for more than six months reveals that officials at the Texas Department of Transportation want to toll interstate highways and shelter private investors from paying income taxes on toll revenue.

On Feb. 28, Texas transportation officials submitted the report to the 110th Congress entitled “Forward Momentum.”

The report did not attract much attention at the time. State lawmakers have only recently begun to speak out about it.

Texas state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, called the recommendations a form of double taxation, according to The Associated Press.

In the report, TxDOT urges federal lawmakers to expand tolling authority to interstates beyond a series of pilot programs authorized in 2005 transportation legislation known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users – SAFETEA-LU.

TxDOT proposes that the federal government do the following:

  • Reduce federal restrictions on tolling by removing pilot-program status;
  • Authorize states to toll interstates and allow toll revenue to be used for a variety of funding needs;
  • Allow states to “buy back” interstates or segments of interstates;
  • Allow equity capital such as pension funds to be utilized as a transportation investment source; and
  • Exempt corporate dividends related to ownership of a toll road from income taxation.

The goal, TxDOT officials stated in the report, is to reduce congestion, expand the economy, enhance safety and improve air quality.

But lawmakers like Carona are not buying it. The state senator has been opposed to tolling any existing roads.

In April, the Texas Senate passed legislation co-authored by Carona to place a two-year moratorium on privately funded toll roads.

The bill received Gov. Rick Perry’s signature despite the governor’s overall penchant to promote toll roads and public-private partnerships.

Perry’s administration has worked closely with TxDOT officials to craft projects like the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor linking Mexico with the southern Midwest.

– By David Tanner, staff writer