Hutchison amendment bans tolling some existing interstates

We applaud Senator Hutchison for attempting to begin the long process of reining-in not just our rogue state agency, TxDOT, but also many of her colleagues who told her stopping managed lane projects (adding new toll lanes to existing corridors to “manage” congestion, which is also a DOUBLE TAX) was a non-starter.

That said, this amendment does little overall to stop any current toll projects in the works throughout Texas. The State can still bulldoze our existing interstates to its heart’s content and re-arrange the pavement to make way for toll lanes down the middle. They call them “new lanes” but they’re using our existing right of way already paid for with gas taxes. So it’s still a DOUBLE TAX. The State can also continue to toll existing STATE highways, all or in part, unabated.

Then when you consider TxDOT’s tricks to replace those “existing lanes” with frontage roads or to narrow the width of the existing lanes (after they destroy them then re-build them, taking twice the construction time as a freeway and more than double the cost), it will slow down or manipulate traffic in such a way as to maximize the number of people on the tollway, this amendment is a start, but doesn’t come close to addressing the fundamental concerns of taxpayers. When the Texas A&M Study says we don’t need toll roads, it’s confounding that some politicians still march ahead over the people’s objections! This battle is far from over and Hutchison vows to continue to fight this DOUBLE TAXATION in its many forms. We surely hope so!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2007

Sen. Hutchison Protects Texas Taxpayers From Double Taxation on Existing Highways
Senate Passes Hutchison Amendment to Ban Tolling Existing Highways in Texas for One Year
WASHINGTON — Texas’ senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R–TX) today passed an amendment to H. R. 3074, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, that protects Texas taxpayers by placing a one-year moratorium on tolling existing highways in Texas. The FY 2008 THUD bill, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 88-7, would be effective through September 30, 2008. The Senate version will now need to be reconciled with the House-passed bill in a conference.

“Today we protected Texas taxpayers from paying twice for a highway,” Sen. Hutchison said. “I will continue pushing for a permanent prohibition of tolling existing highways.”

If enacted, Sen. Hutchison will have protected Texas for one year, but she is committed to addressing this issue on a more comprehensive basis in the 2009 Highway Reauthorization bill. Sen. Hutchison’s amendment preserves the Texas State Legislature’s authority over this issue in Texas.

During the 80th session of the Texas Legislature the state House and Senate approved a measure that would place a two-year moratorium on building toll roads in Texas.

“Sen. Hutchison is a hero to every Texas driver,” State Sen. and former Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said. “Her amendment is the right thing to do and I strongly support her position.”

Last week Sen. Hutchison filed S. 2019, a bill to prohibit the tolling of interstate highways that have used federal funds in their construction, and the next day four Members of Congress filed companion legislation, H.R. 3510. The House bill was filed by Reps. John Peterson (R–PA), Phil English (R–PA), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) and Ciro Rodriguez (D–TX). Sen. John Cornyn (R–TX) cosponsored Sen. Hutchison’s bill.

Efforts to toll newly constructed lanes or new highways would not be prohibited in Sen. Hutchison’s amendment that passed the Senate, or in S. 2019 or H.R. 3510.

“I’ve long believed that if local communities and the state want to come together and build a toll road, they should be able to do it,” Sen. Hutchison said.

Earlier this year the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) declared they will lobby Congress to allow for the “buy back” of existing federal highways in Texas for the purpose of tolling. In February TxDOT released their legislative agenda in a report called “Forward Momentum,” which seeks changes in federal law that would allow such buybacks for the purpose of tolling interstate highways, pending approval by local governments.

“I deeply thank Sen. Hutchison for being a voice of reason on this issue,” State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) said. “Asking Texans to pay twice for the same road violates the trust that should exist between people and government.”

Sen. Hutchison passed a similar amendment as part of the 2005 Highway Bill, which passed the Senate but was stripped in conference by the House of Representatives.

“The purpose of having an interstate system is so that we could have seamless and free transportation into every State of our Union,” Sen. Hutchison said.

The text of Sen. Hutchison’s amendment can be found here:

Sen. Hutchison is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over all of the Appropriations bills, including THUD.


Texas Toll Ban Added to Transportation Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) – The transportation spending bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday includes a ban on tolls for existing Texas roadways.

The Texas toll ban is attached to the $106 billion spending bill approved by the Senate 88-7. The bill also includes an amendment banning Mexican trucks from U.S. roadways, which was passed late Tuesday.

The toll ban amendment authored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is in addition to a two-year moratorium imposed on construction of new toll roads by the Legislature during this year’s session.

Building new toll roads or lanes in Texas would not be prohibited by the amendment.

The Senate bill now heads to conference committee to be reconciled with the House version.

President Bush has threatened to veto the final bill because of its cost.

©2007 Associated Press.