The Obama Administration unveiled transportation legislation this week that would boost revenues for the dwindling Highway Trust Fund through corporate tax reform in conjunction with expanded tolling of existing interstates and private infrastructure financing.
The legislation also would allow states to place electric vehicle charging stations and anti-idling equipment for trucks in rest areas along the Interstate Highway System, and enables states to charge motorists fees for these services.
The “Grow America Act," sent to Congress by the Department of Transportation, is based on the $302 billion proposal that President Obama outlined in his fiscal 2015 budget plan in March.
The legislation would eliminate the general ban against interstate tolls. It would allow states to use tolls to fund highway reconstruction, as well as other non-highway transportation spending including transit. The President’s proposal would repeal the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP), which has limited tolling to three slots, and open tolling to all states, subject to approval from the Secretary of Transportation.
"It is extremely irresponsible for the Administration to take this approach to highway funding," said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. "The public detests tolls, and tolling of existing interstates has been repeatedly rejected in every state that attempted to implement them. The public rejects them because they jeopardize safety by pushing traffic onto less safe, secondary roads. And tolls are horribly inefficient, with as much as 20 cents of every dollar generated going to administer them."
Mullings added that the DOT proposal to sell products and services such as EV charging and idle reduction equipment at rest areas has been rejected by Congress in the past. "Congress decided many years ago that the private sector was best positioned to provide services to motorists at the interstate exits, and the Senate overwhelmingly reaffirmed that decision just two years ago," she said.
The American Trucking Associations, which has long called on Congress to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the fuel tax, issued a statement calling the proposal a missed opportunity.
“A strong, well-funded federal highway program is critical to our nation’s economic success,” ATA President and CEO Bill Grave said, “and another round of Band-Aids and hollow promises won’t get it done.”
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