With the House version of the new highway bill (H.R. 3) so far including language that would grant states more authority to levy tolls on existing Interstate highways for repairs, local governments are setting in motion proposals to place tolls on major truck routes, such as I-95.
For example, Nelson Griebel, head of Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board, told New London, CT-based The Day that the committee has been nudging the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) for support on tolling the corridor.
“This must start with a study, because there are key issues, including getting the federal government to agree,” Griebel told The Day. “During the past four years, we’ve had numerous conversations with DOT, and we have been led to believe that properly presented as a congestion mitigation measure, they would be open to a discussion of tolls.”
Last week the highway bill was unanimously approved by the House transportation committee, including provision that grants states the authority to collect tolls on a highway, bridge, or tunnel on existing interstates for improvements or repairs. This would be allowed by the DOT if the state provides a ‘reasonable’ analysis on financing and reconstructing for interstate projects, and if that corridor is congested or has fallen behind in maintenance and expansion to warrant tolls.
The full House is expected to meet and vote on amendments to the highway bill starting on Wednesday, March 9.
Meanwhile, the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) is rallying its members to back an amendment that would bar states from implementing tolls on existing interstate lanes.
ATA is urging support for an amendment introduced by Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) that would allow states to use tolls to finance new interstate highway projects that would add capacity and ease congestion. Tolling existing interstate lanes would have a devastating effect on the trucking industry’s ability to move freight safely and efficiently, ATA said, warning that it would divert commercial traffic to more dangerous secondary routes.
Additionally, an hours-of-service amendment to allow truck drivers to break up on-duty periods with up to two hours of off-duty time introduced by Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) is expected to be voted on by Thursday, March 10.
A Senate transportation committee is expected to vote on its version of the highway bill by the end of March.