Senate bill would keep federal highways toll free

| 5/26/2009

A U.S. senator from Texas has filed a bill that would prohibit the tolling of highways built with federal funds.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, filed S1115 on Thursday, May 21, and it was referred to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee.

“I believe taxing Americans twice for the same asset is fundamentally unfair, and I oppose any effort to place tolls on existing interstate highways,” Hutchison stated on her Web site.

“As we work to meet our transportation needs, we must think broadly and avoid Band-Aid solutions, like tolling, that will ultimately exacerbate congestion and divert traffic into residential neighborhoods and onto smaller, less safe roads.”

According to Hutchison, the bill would prevent states or private companies from tolling “existing free federal highways, bridges, or tunnels built with federal funding.”

The bill would also prohibit states from purchasing highways from the federal government and leasing them to private investors to toll. Tolls would not be prohibited on new construction, Hutchison stated.

OOIDA said the senator’s remarks about toll roads being a form of double taxation was right on the mark.

“We’re very pleased with the senator’s action on behalf of highway users,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce told Land Line.

“We believe her bill sends a very strong message to those that support and encourage toll roads, especially during this critical time when we’re debating future policies related to highway funding that will be contained in the highway authorization bill later this year.”

Hutchison has filed toll-related legislation in the past including a bill in 2007 aimed at keeping federal highways in Texas toll free. That bill passed as part of an appropriations package.

Hutchison filed legislation earlier this session that called for the reform of a transportation funding formula that made Texas a “donor state” – meaning Texas has paid more to the federal government than it has gotten in return. Hutchison has called for a federal “dollar for dollar” match for her home state.

In the House, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-PA, filed HR1071 earlier this year aimed at keeping interstates such as I-80 from being converted into toll roads.

– By David Tanner, staff writer

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Legislation filed to halt interstate tolling
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