Toll special interests hijack highway bill

Link to article here.

Tolling lobbyists attempt to hijack highway funding discussion
By David Tanner,
Land Line Magazine
July 23, 2014

A pro-tolling lobby group attempted to steer the discussion about highway and bridge funding this week toward interstate tolls. Fortunately, an alliance that supports toll-free interstates is in place to counter their arguments.

The plot thickened this week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 former transportation secretaries including Ray LaHood joined together in a letter to Congress to urge long-term solutions to road, bridge and transit funding.

The letter did not even sniff the issue of tolling, but that didn’t stop the pro-tolling group, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, from glomming on in an attempt to make the discussion about tolls.

IBTTA issued a statement “joining” Foxx and the others in a “gutsy” call for solutions. From where IBTTA positions itself, that means interstate tolling and public-private partnerships.

The attachment by IBTTA to the transportation secretaries’ letter drew immediate fire from the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, whose mission is embedded within its name.

"While Monday’s letter from Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 former transportation secretaries is a reminder of the need for compromise on this critical issue, it is not an endorsement of the widely-panned White House proposal to broaden states’ authority to place new tolls on existing interstates, despite attempts by a pro-tolling group to portray the letter as such,” Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates spokesman Julian Walker said in a statement.

And about that “gusty” comment?

“Removing longstanding barriers to interstate tolling isn’t gutsy,” Walker said. “To the contrary, it’s a cowardly, pass the buck idea presented by the president that has found no traction in Congress and has been rejected time and again by states.”

The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates is a growing group of transportation associations and companies. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is a member of the alliance, as are all 50 state trucking associations and the ATA.

Congress is currently hashing over measures to shore up the Highway Trust Fund – the pot of money that pays for federal transportation projects and programs through fuel taxes, heavy-vehicle use taxes, tire taxes and the 12 percent excise tax on heavy equipment.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently moved to extend trust fund programs at current levels through May 2015 in an effort to buy more time to get a longer-term funding mechanism in place.

The U.S. Senate is set to consider a separate-but-similar measure once leadership establishes the procedure and rules for amendments. If and when the Senate passes its version, the House and Senate must reconcile any differences before the bill can move toward becoming law.