The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) on June 24 unanimously approved a bipartisan $275 billion highway bill that would fund the nation’s highway program for six years.
The Senate EPW voted 20-0 in favor of the DRIVE Act – Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy -- which boosts overall highway funding by an average of 3 percent annually and includes about $2 billion in annual funding for a new federal freight program.
Of special interest to the transportation community and NATSO members, the DRIVE Act would amend the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP), which allows three states to seek tolling authority to fund maintenance on interstate highways, and contains a weight exemption for natural gas trucks.
The DRIVE act amends the ISRRPP to require those states awarded tolling authority under the program to relinquish their slot if they fail to implement tolls within a certain timeframe. It also would allow states to divert tolls collected under the program to any federally funded infrastructure project once the tolled lanes have been maintained.
NATSO opposes expanding the tolling pilot program and would like to see the ISRRPP program repealed.
“We appreciate the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as they work toward building a safer and more efficient infrastructure network,” NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said in a statement. “However, we don’t support new tolls on existing interstate highways. Tolls divert highway traffic off of the interstates and onto secondary roads, which can create unsafe driving conditions in our communities. Furthermore, tolls are an inefficient double tax on interstate travelers.
No state has added tolls under this program because of strong public opposition. Instead of amending the failed ISRRPP, we urge the Senate to repeal it.”
Currently, the states of Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri hold slots under the ISRRPP. However, not one of the slot-holding states has been able to implement tolls due to strong public opposition.
The natural gas weight exemption would allow vehicles operated by natural gas to exceed weight limits up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 82,000 pounds by an amount that is equal to the difference between the weight of the vehicle attributable to the natural gas tank and fueling system carried by the vehicle and the weight of a comparable diesel tank and fueling system.
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