The House of Representatives has approved a long-term plan for the nation’s highways, and NATSO, the national association representing truckstops and travel plazas, is commending the House’s efforts.
However, the trade association expressed concern with a provision of the House Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (STRRA) that would amend the program commonly known as the interstate tolling pilot program.
“We appreciate the House’s commitment to moving forward a multi-year bill and urge the House and the Senate to work quickly to finalize legislation before the Nov. 20 expiration of current highway spending authorization,” said NATSO president and CEO Lisa Mullings. “However, we don’t support tolling on existing interstates. Tolling existing interstates is not a viable method of funding transportation projects. Tolls are an inefficient, counter-productive means of raising revenue for the nation’s highways that jeopardize the safety of the traveling public. In the interest of building a safer, more efficient infrastructure network, the tolling pilot program ultimately should be repealed in its entirety.”
Tolling federal interstates is prohibited under federal law except for three states that hold slots under the Interstate Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Pilot Program (ISRRPP). STRRA would amend the ISRRPP to impose a “use it or lose it” rule on state pilot projects, where states have a three-year deadline to obtain tolling approval under the pilot program, after which time the slot could be transferred to another state.
This provision lowers the bar for approval of pilot programs and would make it more difficult for the public to challenge pilot program approvals.
Unlike the Senate’s Drive Act put forth in July, the STRAA would require states to have enabling legislation before a tolling pilot project is approved and does not include language that would allow funds collected through tolls to be diverted to projects outside of improvements to that road. NATSO strongly prefers the House legislation in this regard, as any highway user fees should be utilized only for infrastructure improvement projects on the highway on which fees are assessed.