U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
June 17, 2009
Maintaining and improving our nation’s vast surface transportation network has become nearly as daunting as negotiating the gridlocked roads of many American cities at rush hour. Communities across
As we work to meet our transportation needs, we must think broadly and avoid Band-Aid solutions that will ultimately exacerbate the problem.
Some believe tolling existing highway infrastructure will alleviate these challenges. But tolling roads that have already been built and paid for with tax dollars amounts to nothing more than double taxation for the same asset; this is a practice that is fundamentally unfair. Consequently, I oppose any effort to place tolls on existing interstate highways.
Double taxation is not the only concern. Overemphasis on tolling has serious implications for community safety and local infrastructure. Studies show that motorists will change their driving patterns to bypass the tolls. This will redirect traffic from our highways to remaining free roads, and, in turn, congest our local streets, compromise neighborhood safety, and overburden small-capacity infrastructure.
Furthermore, tolls on existing interstates will divert truck traffic to other roads. A recent study predicted that a 25-cent-per-mile toll on an interstate highway would cause nearly half the trucks to divert to other routes. Many of the communities that would be impacted are not equipped to handle heavy commercial traffic, and the safety of local drivers could be put at risk by the increased presence of trucks on small roads.
I recently introduced legislation to prevent tolling of existing free federal highways, bridges, or tunnels built with federal funding, so that taxpayers are not taxed to use a road for which they’ve already paid. I’m for more highways and even tolls, when proposed the right way. The legislation does not prohibit tolls on new construction. If local communities and states want to cooperatively construct a toll road, they should be able to do so. If a state or community wants to expand its highways and toll for building new lanes, it can choose that alternative. In these situations, the taxpayers know exactly what they are getting. Many times a vote is required to approve these projects, but in any case, the taxpayers can hold the relevant officials accountable.
The debate on tolling illuminates the broader need to reform the federal highway program. Its antiquated funding formula — which has turned
In April, I introduced a bill that would permit states to opt out of this federal highway program and instead be rebated federal fuel taxes collected within their borders.
Hutchison is the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
This article, which you can read in today’s edition of The Hill, was included in a special report on Transportation and Infrastructure issues.
For more information on Senator Hutchison’s legislation allowing states to opt out of the federal highway system, please click here. You can also access an OpEd she authored with Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on the subject here.
For more information about Senator Hutchison’s fight to ban tolling on existing federal highways, please click here.
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