Senate Should Reject Anti-Tolling Highway Bill Amendment

by Marc Scribner on March 7, 2012 · 2 comments

in Features, Mobility

Post image for Senate Should Reject Anti-Tolling Highway Bill Amendment

I previously wrote about Sen. Herb Kohl’s (D-Wisc.) terrible amendment to the Senate’s MAP-21 bill that would allow the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to engage in antitrust regulatory harassment of the railroad industry, something they are currently and justifiably prohibited from doing. This is arguably the worst “germane” amendment, but another comes close.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) submitted Amendment 1568 [PDF], which is essentially the same as the Amendment 223 [PDF] to the House highway bill that was submitted by Rep. Quico Canseco (R-Tex.). The amendments seek to prohibit the use of federal funds for new tolling operations on all federal-aid highways, excluding the conversion of high-occupancy vehicle lanes to high-occupancy toll lanes. But Sen. Hutchison’s amendment takes it a step further by cutting from three to two the maximum number of projects allowed under the Interstate System Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Pilot Program. Currently, two of the three existing slots are filled by Virginia’s I-95 and Missouri’s I-70 [PDF] projects.

Much of the Interstate system is nearly 50 years old and will soon need to be completely reconstructed. Without expanded tolling or dramatic tax increases, there will not be enough funding available to complete these very important projects. Sen. Hutchison’s amendment, while supported by the trucking industry for obvious reasons, runs counter to sound transportation policy and should be opposed.

In contrast, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) submitted Amendment 1670 [PDF], cosponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), which would expand the existing tolling pilot program to 10 project slots, in addition to ending the 15-project cap on the Value Pricing Pilot Program. I would have loved to see this go much further, but the amendment is certainly a step in the right direction — especially in the context of the terrible policies backed by Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Canseco.

Without tolling as an available revenue collection mechanism, it will be all the more difficult to devolve transportation funding responsibility from the federal level and move toward more innovative public-private partnership models in the future. That long-term goal, I thought, was shared by libertarians and fiscal conservatives. It is disappointing that self-styled “fiscal conservatives” in Congress are so intent on protecting socialized road funding.

Robert Z. March 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Can the Republicans in Congress, just once, base their actions on what’s good for the country, not for their campaign contributors, and not base them on trying to make the Democrats or President Obama look bad? MAP-21 is getting ridiculous. Sen. Blunt’s amendment regarding birth control was so blatantly motivated by politics that the people of Oklahoma should seriously consider throwing him out of office. All that amendment did was waste time on a bill that will be crucial for both jobs and infrastructure. Now Sen. Kay Hutchison (yes, that’s a man) wants to defeat the entire purpose of the bill by banning interstate toll highway projects from receiving federal money. It’s a blatant, counterproductive move motivated by politics.

So far, the Republicans repealed Glass Steagall, made up reasons to go to war in Iraq, took seven years to pass a simple, no-brainer bill that barred people from buying 100 boxes of Sudafed at the drug store, but took one weekend to give $700 billion to the very banks that caused the financial meltdown in 2008.

Please Republicans, I’m begging you: just this once do what’s good for the country. This is the reason why none of you will replace President Obama.

BOB2 March 12, 2012 at 9:41 am

So much for allowing the States local control, or the use of “free market” demand based tolling to pay for new road capacity?

This brand of lying, thieving, hypocritical Repuke, like we see with Kay, appears to be mainly about the “campaign contributions” aka bribes, from to provide a “free ride” by the trucking industry, that tears up our roads the most. Like many of these phonies, she will say “no” to free market principles, and say “yes” to socialist subsidies for special corporate interests.

Kay’s motto should be: Screw America First!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: