WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R–TX), Texas’ senior Senator, today pressed former Congressman Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary nominee, on his stance on imposing tolls on existing federal highways at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Transportation & Science hearing. Rep. LaHood agreed with Sen. Hutchison that tolling should not be imposed on existing roads that have already been paid for by taxpayers, unless a new lane is constructed and the same number of free lanes is maintained.
“I think we have placed too much focus on private-financed toll roads to solve the problems of urban congestion. In many instances, this has become an abdication of private property rights. I am very concerned about our federal government giving incentives to promote toll roads and, in some instances, allowing tolls over every lane of a federal highway that the taxpayers have already paid for,” said Sen. Hutchison.
“The idea of taking…the interstate highway that’s already there and people are using and putting tolls on that… is not a good idea,” said Rep. LaHood.
At the Commerce Committee hearing to consider his nomination to the post of Transportation Secretary on Wednesday, Rep. LaHood testified that out-of-the box thinking would be needed to face transportation challenges, and imposing tolls on existing highways that taxpayers are already using is not a good approach. Rep. LaHood agreed that tolls could be a viable option for new lanes, highways, or bridges.
In 2007, Sen. Hutchison successfully passed legislation that prohibits the tolling of existing federal highways built with taxpayer dollars in Texas. Sen. Hutchison’s amendment passed and was signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 THUD Appropriations bill. The Senate extended the provision through September 30, 2009.