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Press Release

Tolling for New Roads, Not Taxes for Existing Ones


An Open Letter to House and Senate Conferees Regarding Tolling Provisions in the Highway Reauthorization Bill


Dear Conferee:


An Open Letter to House and Senate Conferees Regarding Tolling Provisions in the Highway Reauthorization Bill


Dear Conferee:

On behalf of the millions of members of the groups listed below, we write to urge you to preserve the House-adopted tolling provisions in the final version of the transportation authorization bill. Specifically, it is of utmost importance to taxpayers and motorists alike that the House’s amended language – to ensure that tolls are used to create new capacity, not as an added surcharge on existing roads – is contained in the final bill.

Language now contained in the Senate version of the highway bill concerning tolling would allow a new hidden tax on motorists and truckers by forcing motorists who pay gas taxes every time they fill up the tank to pay once again for tolls. Specifically, the tolling language would make it more expensive to use existing roads at peak “rush hour” times (High Occupancy Tolling), would allow states to convert existing interstates built and maintained with gas taxes into toll roads, and would allow tolling to continue indefinitely with no guarantees that revenues are used for needed roads. Although the original House bill contained similar language, an amendment offered by Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) and included in the final House bill, allows tolling only for the construction of new road capacity with those tolls to be removed once construction and maintenance costs are paid for (this is known as the Freeing Alternatives for Speedy Transportation or FAST concept).

Tolling does indeed have great promise as a tool for effectively managing traffic flow and road capacity, but it must be applied in ways that expand available road capacity and create net benefits for motorists and taxpayers. Tolling should not be used simply to enhance government revenue by forcing motorists to pay twice for existing road capacity. Since studies have shown that each year about 35 percent of federal fuel tax revenues are siphoned off to purposes that do not benefit the average motorist or trucker, evidence indicates that revenue alone is not enough to solve our nation’s transportation crisis.

Although here we have outlined several flaws in the Senate’s current tolling proposals, we are not categorically opposed to tolling if it follows the Kennedy approach. There is indeed great potential for private companies to use High Occupancy Tolling and other congestion management tools, and we welcome any efforts to add capacity through the FAST tolling provision or via privately owned and-constructed roads.

The groups below look forward to working with you and the other conferees in your discussions over tolling and inclusion of the FAST provision in the final bill. Please feel free to call on any of us if you have additional questions.


John Berthoud
National Taxpayers Union

Thomas Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

David Keene
American Conservative Union

Kerri Houston
Vice President of Policy
Future of Freedom Foundation

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Chuck Muth
Citizens Outreach

Dan Danner
Senior Vice President, Public Policy
National Federation of Independent Business

Matt Kibbe
Citizens for a Sound Economy