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Independent association testifies before congressional panel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When highways are privately owned, those private companies are able to raise toll rates year af...

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When highways are privately owned, those private companies are able to raise toll rates year after year, was just one of the sentiments shared by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) on the issue of highway privatization.

OOIDA executive vice-president Todd Spencer testified during a hearing before the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

It is the association’s position the motoring public has already paid taxes and user fees to build those roads. Subsequent toll raises may force highway users on to alternate routes on local roads, resulting in congestion and safety hazards, along with additional costs to purchase those roads.

“Our interstates and highways were built to provide citizens the ability to move about freely and to distribute freight efficiently,” said Spencer. “Not to become cash cows for solving funding problems.”

Spencer cited an example from Indiana, whose taxpayers will likely end up paying a high price for a decision made by their governor.

“Gov. Mitch Daniels signed over control of the Indiana Toll Road and its toll rates for the next 75 years, leaving governors who are yet to be born without any say whatsoever over that road,” Spencer said.

No compete clauses in that lease agreement require the public to purchase the rights to significantly improve or add capacity to those adjacent roadways from the leasing entity.

“Ultimately, the citizens of northern Indiana will be left to pick up the tab and deal with the consequences,” Spencer added.

Spencer also added OOIDA does not oppose all instances of privatization.

“There is no doubt leasing our nation’s highways will leave an enduring legacy on our country,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have difficulty envisioning it to be a positive one.”

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