Tolls bill would halt US federal highway tolling

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bill aims to put a stop to creeping tolls on the national highway system.

The aptly named "Freedom from Tolls Act," introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), would prohibit states, private entities and private-public partnerships from adding tolls on existing federal highways, bridges or tunnels built with federal funding.

"I believe taxing Americans twice for the same asset is fundamentally unfair, and I oppose any effort to place tolls on existing interstate highways," said Sen. Hutchison. "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."

The bill would also prohibit states from attempting to purchase highways from the federal government and place them under state ownership or lease them to foreign investors for the purpose of tolling them. The legislation does not prohibit tolls on new construction, however.

The American Trucking Associations announced its support of the measure. "Highway users have paid for these highways through fuel taxes," said President and CEO Bill Graves.

"ATA supports the continued reliance on fuel taxes as the primary means of funding much needed strategic investments in highway freight transportation."

Graves added that collecting fuel taxes costs far less than any other proposed alternatives, making it the most efficient way to fund highway projects.

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