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State Legislation Expands Freeway Tolling
Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee advance legislation imposing toll roads.

Governor Haley Barbour
Three states this week advanced legislation that make it harder for motorists to travel without throwing coins in a basket or having their movements tracked electronically. Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee each moved bills that either impose tolls on existing roads or allow the collection of tolls on entirely new routes.

On Monday, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) signed a sweeping toll road measure into law. It authorizes the state to seize land from homeowners under eminent domain and turn it over to a private company. That company, in turn, will build a road and charge for its use. The new law does provide that motorists fleeing for their lives from hurricanes or other declared disasters will not be charged. The measure passed 52-0 in the state Senate and 117-4 in the state House (view bill, 113k PDF).

The Florida House of Representatives voted 68-44 yesterday to adopt a bill giving the Florida Department of Transportation authority to "enter into agreements with private or public entities." These agreements allow the state to sell off assets on a 99-year lease basis. The measure also allows the department to bypass laws against no-bid and secretly negotiated contracts (view bill, 316k PDF, see page 54-62). Similar legislation has passed in the Senate and must be reconciled before becoming law.

The Tennessee House Transportation Committee approved its own toll road measure yesterday. HB 1204 (view bill, 53k PDF) would establish a toll road authority to build new toll roads in the state. The bill's sponsor is Transportation Committee Chairman Phillip Pinion (D) whose girlfriend is a lobbyist for a toll road engineering firm that stands to make millions on the deal. This bill is scheduled for Senate committee consideration today.

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