ATA opposes privatization of nation’s toll facilities

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The board of directors of the American Trucking Associations has voiced strong opposition to the privatization or leasing of existing toll facilities to fund highway infrastructure projects. ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves announced the decision Tuesday, Oct. 31, at the national trade association’s 2006 Management Conference and Exhibition in Grapevine, Texas.

Graves told more than 2,000 participants that “ATA strongly opposes the lease or sale of existing toll roads, bridges or tunnels to private parties,” and called on government to abandon these financing techniques, which generate revenue “at great expense to the trucking industry and taxpayers, and with potential negative impacts on highway safety, security and the motoring public.”

Graves said the trucking industry supports the objective of a toll-free national highway system where funds to finance highway improvement primarily come from highway user fees such as the fuel tax. “Policymakers have to ask if it’s worth the economic risk and loss of control in determining the future use, renovation and expansion of our nation’s vital strategic assets, of which highway infrastructure may be of greatest importance,” Graves said.

Graves cited the sheer volume of freight moved by truck, the pervasive number of communities served by trucks, and the trucking industry’s relevance in responding to natural disasters as benchmarks for gauging ATA’s position. “ATA is prepared to lead a national coalition of highway users in opposition to these financing schemes that offer a short-term windfall but a long-term recipe for disaster,” he said.

ATA’s board of directors established a 10-point policy on privatization for those cases where toll facilities might end up in the hands of the private sector. Recommendations include:

  • Restricting the use of revenues generated by the sale of the lease to un-tolled highway projects;
  • Setting toll rates that cover only costs related to the toll facility plus a reasonable return on investment;
  • Providing adequate facilities for the trucking industry;
  • Rebating state fuel taxes paid by facility users;
  • Applying constraints on private operators’ ability to impose fees and restrictions on vehicles;
  • Establishing a “sinking fund” for continued maintenance and operation;
  • Preventing clauses that restrict improvements to competing roads;
  • Requiring open road tolling and making the technology compatible with that used on other interstate toll roads; and
  • Creating performance specifications that ensure operations and maintenance that guarantee safety and provide for acceptable traffic flows.
  • Any privatization agreement also should create an oversight group with representation from major stakeholders, including the trucking industry.