Senate to take up amendments on tolling and privatization

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/29/2012

The U.S. Senate will begin considering more than 200 amendments to its two-year transportation bill this week, and four of those amendments relate specifically to tolling and the privatization of infrastructure. Truckers can affect the outcome of the bill by contacting their lawmakers about these amendments.

Senators will continue their consideration of the $109 billion transportation bill on Thursday, March 1.

Amendment SA1568, offered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, would prohibit federal funds from being used to impose tolls on existing federal highways. The amendment would allow for certain types of new capacity to be tolled such as high-occupancy vehicle lanes that add capacity to the system.

The Hutchison amendment would also reduce the number of states – from three to two – that can toll existing interstates under a long-standing Federal Highway Administration pilot program.

OOIDA supports the Hutchison amendment.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, has offered an amendment, SA1725, to make tolling authorities more accountable and to regulate toll increases to a “just and reasonable” standard. The Lautenberg amendment would permit the U.S. transportation secretary to launch investigations and open up a public complaint process relating to toll increases.

OOIDA supports the Lautenberg amendment on tolling.

Amendment SA1514, filed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, would change the federal highway funding formula when public-private partnerships are involved. The Bingaman amendment would remove the lane miles of a privatized roadway from being considered for federal funding.

OOIDA supports the Bingaman amendment, saying it will prevent states from having their cake and eating it too when they privatize roadways.

“It will basically serve as a disincentive for states to hand over their roads to private entities who are only seeking the profit from taxpayer subsidies and ever-increasing tolls paid by truckers and other motorists,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

The Association opposes an amendment, SA1670, from Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE. His amendment would expand the number of interstates in the Federal Highway Administration’s tolling pilot program from three to 10. Carper’s amendment would do away with other restrictions on states and local governments relating to value pricing and tolls.

OOIDA urges truckers to contact their lawmakers in regard to the tolling amendments.