The U.S. Senate has passed a measure to ban tolls on existing federal highways in Texas.
Truckers who view interstate tolling as blatant double taxation say the legislation introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, is a victory for highway users.
Hutchison’s legislation was incorporated into a larger Senate appropriations bill for transportation and housing that passed Thursday, Sept. 18.
In detail, the Hutchison provision would prohibit tolling on existing interstates in Texas with few exceptions – but would allow tolling to build new capacity favorable to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.
The Hutchison provision states that “none of the funds made available, limited, or otherwise affected by this Act shall be used to approve or otherwise authorize the imposition of any toll on any segment of highway located on the Federal-aid system in the State of Texas.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association agrees with the intent of the bill.
“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,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce, echoing a statement he made when Hutchison introduced her provision in May.
The appropriations bill has already cleared the House. For it to become law, the two chambers must agree on final language before sending it to the president’s desk for signature.
Hutchison has been trying since 2007 to ban interstate tolling in her state, using the appropriations process as the vehicle.
In Texas, the issue of tolling has ramped up since Hutchison announced her intention to run against Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the next gubernatorial election.
Hutchison is running on anti-tolling sentiment while Perry insists tolls are necessary to fund transportation projects.
The two have been trading remarks in the press of late, leaving little doubt that the campaign will contain some fireworks.
– By David Tanner, staff writer