Congress Starts Highway Funding Discussion

Members of Congress met this week to discuss the future of highway funding, and House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said he wants the House to pass a new transportation funding bill by August to allow time for conference negotiations with the Senate. The current highway bill expires Sept. 30. 

Shuster said it is important that Congress avoid a repeat of the last transportation funding process, which saw the passage of seven short-term funding extensions before legislators reached a final agreement in 2012. He made the remarks during a Jan. 14 Capitol Hill hearing, which was the committee's first public hearing to address the current highway legislation, MAP-21.

The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, of which NATSO is a founding member, submitted testimony to the committee, telling Congress allowing new tolls on existing interstate capacity it is inappropriate under all circumstances. Not only are tolls inefficient, the testimony said, they divert traffic onto non-tolled routes or can be avoided by those going through an electronic toll plaza without a transponder or using a transponder with an outdated account. Furthermore, tolls result in double taxation, the Alliance said.

"Revenue generated from the fuel tax funds ongoing construction and maintenance of the interstate system throughout the country. A new toll on an existing interstate forces a motorist to pay two taxes for that same road: a fuel tax and a toll tax," the testimony said.

The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, the association for the owners and operators of toll facilities, submitted testimony asking Congress to allow states to toll existing interstates. "Granting states the ability to consider tolling of the existing Interstate System is even more critical now when federal and state revenues remain limited and major highway, bridge and tunnel infrastructure is in need of repair," IBTTA's testimony said. 

The last transportation bill contained about $54 billion per year in road and transit funding, which infrastructure advocates said isn't nearly enough for the country’s road and transit needs. The Congressional Budget Office has said that bringing the trust fund back into the black would require cutting federal transportation spending from $51 billion to $4 billion, raising the gas tax by 10 cents or a combination of the two.

During the hearing, U.S. governors and mayors asked to quickly reauthorize long-term legislation to fund transportation projects across the country, fearing that any lapse in funding could disrupt existing projects and hurt local economies.

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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