The Arkansas Trucking Association will support the state highway commission’s decision to use tolls to pay for building the Bella Vista bypass on Interstate 540 in northwest Arkansas. However, Association president Lane Kidd told ArkansasBusiness.com that commissioners must “allow public hearings on toll fees contemplated, commit that the toll fees collected will not be diverted to other road projects, and remove these tolls as soon as the construction costs are paid off.”
“Let us not forget that tolls are simply taxes, and tolls are much more expensive on citizens than either registration fees or fuel taxes,” Kidd told ArkansasBusiness.com. “We would oppose these tolls if they were proposed for an existing highway. However, in certain cases tolls can be an effective way to pay for building a new highway, especially when its construction could improve highway safety.”
The state Highway Commission recent voted to collect tolls from motorists to pay for building a 15-mile section of I-540 in northwest Arkansas at a cost of more than $260 million, or $17.3 million per mile.
“We will support tolls to build this much-needed section of I-540 as long as the highway commissioners provide these assurances,” Kidd told ArkansasBusiness.com. “Otherwise, the people of northwest Arkansas could wind up paying proportionally more for highways than other citizens, as well as becoming a cash cow for highway projects throughout Arkansas.”