U.S. Senate ponders bill that would limit new tolls on Interstate highways

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 5) — A bill that would limit the authority of individual states to establish tolls on Interstate highways is receiving broad support from the largest U.S. truck lobby group.

The Interstate Tolls Relief Act of 1999 (S. 947), introduced earlier this week by U.S. Senators Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), would prevent new user fees on the Interstate Highway System and restrict other tolling authority for major bridges and tunnels.

“We welcome and strongly support this legislation,” said Walter B. McCormick, Jr., president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “Americans — and America’s trucking industry — should not have to pay tolls on highways for which we’ve already paid our fair share. To do so is like paying rent on a home you’ve already purchased.”

Hollings said that, for many states, large increases in highway funding under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and additional receipts from hikes in state fuel taxes are providing adequate revenue for highway infrastructure improvements and maintenance, making new tolls unnecessary.

The Hollings-McCain bill does not prevent states from tolling non-Interstate highways. Also, it does not affect tolls on highways where they are already in place; enabling states to continue depending on an existing revenue stream. And, in cases where no other option is available to fund a major Interstate bridge or tunnel project, states may consider tolls as an option.

To continue in the current atmosphere, said Hollings, “… could reduce the efficiency of our Interstate highways, increase shipping costs, and make interstate travel more expensive and less convenient.”

Hollings is the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. McCain is Committee chairman.

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