The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates sent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week. The message: Don’t toll existing interstates to pay for the bill.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, as well as all 50 state trucking associations, is a member of ATFI. More than 50 other transportation groups and companies are also members.
In a letter dated Feb. 1, ATFI recognizes the Trump Administration and Congress for emphasizing the need to address infrastructure funding. While acknowledging that modernization and funding can improve the movement of people and goods, ATFI warns that bad legislation can be counterproductive.
“ATFI urges the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to reject tolling of existing interstates as a financing method, and further encourages the Committee to avoid policies that move toward devolution of the interstate system,” ATFI wrote in the letter.
Reliance on private investments has the potential to lead to higher toll rates, ATFI explains. Furthermore, private companies concerned with their bottom line would likely focus only on urban areas as they would prove to be more profitable. Such a system could divert funds from needed projects in what ATFI called “often overlooked parts of the country.”
ATFI calls tolling the least efficient financing mechanism, pointing out that voters continually reject such plans. The letter explains that tolling takes years and millions of dollars to implement, and money is often diverted away from the road being tolled. Anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of revenue is used on toll operations alone. Conversely, other funding methods such as fuel taxes and registration fees have no additional costs regarding implementation.
The anti-toll group also used Rhode Island as an example of how excessive tolls can hurt local and state economies. The Ocean State is using a federal bridge exemption to toll 14 bridges and build more than 30 gantries, adding tolls statewide. As a result, businesses and trucking companies have declared they will avoid the area. Truckers who do drive through the state are likely to avoid toll roads, adding more traffic and stress to local roadways. This will lead to additional maintenance costs to local roads, shifting the burden of costs to municipalities.
Lastly, ATFI pointed out in the letter the failure of the Interstate System Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Pilot Program, which allowed certain states to propose tolling plans on existing interstates. In the programs 19-year history, not a single successful project has occurred. When put to a vote, the public has been quick to reject the proposals.
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