Hutchison amendment to ban tolling existing interstates survives

What’s amazing about this effort is that this language had been stripped at the beginning of the conference committee, and our delegation, particularly Senator Hutchison, Rep. Rodriguez, and Rep. Edwards, had to fight tooth and nail (freshman Rodriguez had to go against his own committee chairman) against the pro-privatization forces just to get this short-term moratorium back in the bill (and this doesn’t even stop any current projects, imagine the blood bath if it did).

This language only prohibits buying back interstates and tolling them without making changes to the road. However, all “managed lane” projects (adding toll lanes on existing right of way already paid for by taxpayers) can still move forward. This provision only lasts until next September…we need to FIGHT HARD to make this permanent to eliminate ANY tolling of ANY existing right of way!

Keep Toll Moratorium in Transportation Bill
Reps. Edwards, Granger, Rodriguez, Gonzalez and Lampson Join Sen.
Hutchison to Keep Toll Amendment in THUD Appropriations Conference

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations subcommittee, today joined with five members of the TexasCongressional delegation, Reps. Chet Edwards (D-TX), Kay Granger (R-TX), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) and Nick Lampson (D-TX), to overcome opposition which threatened an amendment to ban the tolling of interstate highways in Texas. Their collective efforts resulted in the amendment remaining part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 THUD Appropriations bill, which tonight was reported out of conference. The conference report is expected to pass both houses of Congress.

“Today we are one step closer to protecting Texas taxpayers from paying twice for a highway,” Sen. Hutchison said. “I will continue working with my colleagues to push for a permanent prohibition of tolling existing federal highways.”

“Using toll roads to double-tax Texans is just plain wrong,” Rep. Rodriguez said. “I am very pleased that the final Transportation conference agreement contains an anti-tolling provision for federal highways in Texas. The citizens of Texas have spoken and they do not want the federal highways they have already paid for to be converted into toll roads. Working with Senator Hutchison, we put progress over politics for the benefit of Texas.”

On September 12, the Senate passed the Hutchison amendment that protects Texas taxpayers by placing a one-year moratorium on tolling existing federal highways in Texas. Sen. John Cornyn (R–TX) cosponsored Sen. Hutchison’s stand-alone 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.

“We could not have emerged victorious tonight if all six of us had not banded together and fought for this amendment together,” said Sen. Hutchison. “I sincerely thank Congresswoman Granger and Congressmen Edwards, Rodriguez, Gonzalez and Lampson for their hard work on this issue. Our Texas delegation was united on this issue and everyone pitched in to achieve this victory for Texas taxpayers. We are moving forward with legislation that will ban the tolling of interstate highways in Texas until at least September 30, 2008, and we will continue pushing for a permanent ban.”

In February the Texas Department of Transportation 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.