Members of a Senate committee have taken the first steps towards a long-term plan for our nation’s highways, and NATSO, the association representing travel plazas and truckstops, has commended their efforts; however they have also raised some concerns about the plan.
A provision in the DRIVE Act seeks to amend the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP) in order to make tolling existing interstates easier and to allow states to use toll revenue for other projects.
NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said:
“We appreciate the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as they work toward building a safer and more efficient infrastructure network. Our industry strongly supports a robust federal highway program that is key to our competitiveness with the rest of the world.
“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.”
The ISRRPP allows three states to apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation to toll existing interstate highways. Currently, 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 to tolling.
The DRIVE Act amends the ISRRPP to require those states awarded tolling authority under the program to act within a certain timeframe or relinquish their slot. The bill lowers the bar for approval of pilot programs and would make it more difficult for the public to challenge pilot program approvals.
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.