9/6/2007Senators Introduce Legislation That Would Ban Tolls on Existing Interstates
A pair of US Senators move to block the Texas Department of Transportation from adding tolls to existing interstate freeways.
US Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) yesterday introduced legislation that would ban the imposition of tolls on existing free interstate highways. S. 2019 would "prohibit the imposition and collection of tolls on certain highways constructed using federal funds," by prohibiting the U.S. Secretary of Transportation from approving tolls on existing federally-funded freeways.
"My bill will protect drivers from paying tolls on roads that were already paid for by taxpayers," Hutchison said. "I will work with members of the Texas Congressional delegation and the state legislature to ensure that Texans are never asked to pay a toll of an existing interstate highway."
Last week, news reports highlighted a Texas Department of Transportation proposal to buy back interstates from the federal government so that the freeways could be sold to foreign investors and converted into toll roads (read TxDOT proposal). Hutchison has a history of opposing such measures. In 2005, she joined colleagues Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Benjamin Nelson (D-Nebraska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and former Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana) in a bipartisan effort to repeal the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program which allows the Federal Highway Administration to add tolls to three existing interstates, bridges or tunnels. Although the Senate agreed to the amendment, it was later stripped in conference before it could become law.
"The politics of tax-and-spend has, unfortunately, crept back into Washington, and threatens to undo all of the good work of the past several years," Cornyn said in a statement Tuesday.
The Texas senators' bill was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California).