Arkansas truckers fear legislation will lead to tolls

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Northwest Arkansas economic developers hope to see one of their key pieces of legislation filed this week: A rewriting of the law authorizing regional mobility authorities. State Rep. Robbie Willis, DConway, will be the sponsor, and supporters and opponents already are gearing up for a fight, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.

Legislation approved in 2005 enabled such authorities, but supporters want to make changes they say are necessary to make such authorities more useful in building roads and other projects. “No two regions have the same needs,” said Mike Malone, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “They need tools to be able to address their transportation challenges, and we’re just trying to lay out options,” Malone told the Democrat Gazette.

But Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, told the Democrat Gazette that the association is worried about “a small pocket of the state creating essentially a fourth level of government” through such authorities. Kidd said the main concern is that the authorities could be used to build and charge tolls for highways through agreements with private companies.

Malone told the Democrat Gazette the new bill will explicitly say that regional mobility authorities cannot sell or offer long-term leases of highways to the private sector. “There’s no intent to privatize public highways,” Malone said. “We’ve said that all along.”