Wyoming’s I-80 toll plan dies in House

| Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Truckers that travel Wyoming are breathing a bit easier after legislation to pursue tolling along Interstate 80 met its demise last week at the statehouse.

The bill sought to allow the Wyoming Department of Transportation to come up with a plan to toll Interstate 80. In addition, the agency would have been allowed to devise a master plan to study various tolling scenarios.

With the tolling authority, WyDOT would have been able to make a formal request to the Federal Highway Administration to set up tolling booths on I-80. The state would also be responsible for coming up with $350,000 to submit the plan to the feds.

The House Transportation Committee last week killed the bill by not releasing it for consideration before the full House. The Senate previously approved it by a vote of 18-12.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a Call to Action to its Wyoming members in the days before the bill died, encouraging truckers to voice their concerns about the issue with their state representatives.

Sen. Stan Cooper, R-Kemmerer, was glad to see the bill die. He was the lone lawmaker to speak in opposition to the bill on the Senate floor.

He told lawmakers his biggest issue was the $350,000 price tag attached for the privilege of asking the federal government whether Wyoming can or cannot do something. He said it is “absurd.”

After the bill died in the House, Cooper wasn’t backing off from his displeasure with the feds.

“One of the issues I have is the federal government collects a lot of money off that road from the fuel tax. That all goes into federal coffers. They use if for all kinds of things, instead of putting it back into highways. It’s being used and abused,” Cooper told Land Line Now on Sirius XM.

Specific details of the toll plan in the legislation – SF35 – did not include toll rates or where tolls would be collected. The master plan would have determined the details.

Tolling the existing highway requires approval by federal authorities, as well as passage at the Wyoming statehouse and the governor’s signature.

WyDOT officials said something must be done because Wyoming doesn’t have enough state or federal money to maintain the interstate. They said the situation will only get worse with traffic projected to double in 30 years.

Cooper said he is concerned about tolls penalizing residents who live along I-80. But he isn’t calling for over-the-road truckers to pay for the privilege of traveling the interstate. He simply wants the roadway to get much-needed attention from the federal government.

“Truckers pay their fair share already. My suggestion is that the feds return more money to the states on the I-80 corridor since it is such a major east-west highway for commercial transportation,” he said.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wyoming in 2010, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
– Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.