House to vote on two amendments that will bar toll funding in three states

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 9/6/2017

Two amendments to the latest appropriations bill that will eliminate further funding for tolls in three states are moving forward. Amendments by Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.; Mike Kelly, R-Pa.; and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., have been approved for a vote by the House.

HR3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, could potentially end the establishment and collection of tolls in Pennsylvania, Washington and Oregon.

In one submitted amendment, No. 49, Thompson and Kelly want to prohibit any funding in the bill from being used for establishing or collecting tolls on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania.

A separate amendment offered by Herrera Beutler, No. 53, seeks to exclude funding to be used to enter into an agreement for the establishment or collection of tolls on Interstate 5 or Interstate 205 in Washington or Oregon.

The amendments were “made in order” – clearing a necessary procedural hurdle – during a late night meeting of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. The Committee considered amendments to four of the eight sections of the giant appropriations bill. Four more sections will be considered on Wednesday, teeing up the approved amendments for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

There will be 10 minutes of debate on the amendment preceding the House vote. The vote could happen as early as Wednesday evening and will likely happen no later than Thursday, according to the schedule as presented Wednesday morning.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association strongly supports both amendments. In a letter to the lawmakers offering the amendments, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer expressed how OOIDA members consistently oppose expansion of tolling as they lack efficiency and effectiveness compared with user-fee funding.

“Research has shown that tolling is an extremely wasteful method of funding our infrastructure compared to fuel taxes, with as much as 2 percent of revenue going to administrative costs rather than the construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges,” Spencer said. “In contrast, a majority of revenue generated by user fees are devoted directly to highway maintenance and new capacity.”

Spencer mentioned that any toll expansions can significantly affect independent truckers’ bottom line. With few shippers providing toll reimbursement, the Association feels truckers are already burdened with taxes, including diesel, tires, trucks and trailers, Unified Carrier Registration, International Registration Plan and heavy vehicle use.

Furthermore, he said, expanding tolls can decrease safety on the nation’s roadways. Tolls can divert highway traffic to secondary or local roads, which are generally not equipped to handle high volume and heavy vehicles.

OOIDA has more than 2,200 small-business truckers in Washington and Oregon and more than 7,000 in Pennsylvania.

“We applaud Reps. Thompson and Herrera-Beutler for having the insight and willingness to submit amendments to H.R. 3354 that would effectively block tolls from the communities they represent,” the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates told Land Line in a statement. “Tolls are a terrible and wasteful use of transportation funds and should be flat-out rejected by policymakers.”

Members are encouraged to call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and urge their lawmaker to vote “yes” on the Thompson/Kelly toll amendment, No. 49, and the Herrera Beutler toll amendment, No. 53.

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