Bill would curtail tolling trend on National Highway System

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The American Trucking Associations on Tuesday, May 26, announced its support for the “Freedom from Tolls Act,” which was introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and would limit the spread of tolling on federal highways. The bill (S.1115) would prohibit states, private entities and private-public partnerships from adding tolls on existing federal highways, bridges or tunnels built with federal funding.

“Highway users have paid for these highways through fuel taxes,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Additional tolling on our National Highway System is nothing more than an ill-conceived quick fix for transportation funding shortfalls.”

Referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the legislation does not prohibit tolls on new construction, and also exempts the conversion of HOV lanes to toll lanes from the prohibition.

“ATA supports the continued reliance on fuel taxes as the primary means of funding much-needed strategic investments in highway freight transportation,” Graves says. “The trucking industry has long opposed additional tolling on any existing highways or roads because collecting fuel taxes costs far less than any other proposed alternatives, making it the most efficient way to fund highway projects.”

In 2007, Hutchison successfully passed legislation that prohibits the tolling of existing federal highways built with taxpayer dollars in Texas. The Senate extended this prohibition through Sept. 30, 2009. “As we work to meet our transportation needs, we must think broadly and avoid Band-Aid solutions like tolling, that will ultimately exacerbate congestion and divert traffic into residential neighborhoods and onto smaller, less safe roads,” Hutchison says.

Hutchison has been working to prohibit this form of double taxation since 2005, when she introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which sought to limit tolling of interstate highways.