Hutchison's bill just pandering to anti-tollers?

Link to article here. Considering this bill does nothing to stop TxDOT’s trickery of bulldozing and rebuilding highways so they can toll them and allows them to continue to bend the plain meaning of words, for once I agree with Peter Samuel on something…

Hutchinson flip flop – says toll prohibition bills don’t really prohibit tolling
Toll Road News
9/13/07
Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Repub) has now issued a statement claiming that none of her “toll prohibition bills” really prohibit tolling! A statement of Sept 12 from her office says: “Efforts to toll newly constructed lanes or new highways would not be prohibited in Sen Hutchinson’s amendment (S AMDT 2825 to HR3074), or in S2109 or HR3510.”

“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,” she is quoted.

see http://hutchison.senate.gov/pr091207a.html

The main purpose of the ambiguous Hutchinson bills seems to be to reassure every constituency – pro and anti toll and in-between – that Senator Hutchinson is on their side.

It’s a giant pander.

When is road new and when is it existing – Clintonian parsing used to obfuscate

We are told the reference in Hutchinson’s S2019 to prohibiting tolls on existing interstates does not preclude toll financing of the reconstruction of an existing interstate since the toll would be on a new highway in the sense of new pavement and bridges not on the existing pavement and bridges.

All the bill would do, under this interpretation, would be to prohibit imposing a toll on old pavement while doing nothing to reconstruct it. In other words it would outlaw imposing tolls and then abandoning the highway – something no highway operator would do anyway. Every real world state DOT, public toll authority or concessionaire will have plans for reconstruction as the road deteriorates and needs improvements.

The road oncer myth too

The confusion may not be entirely a pandering effort to make friends with opposites and to have it both ways for political purposes, but also a failure to understand roads. Widespread is the oncer myth, the false notion of a road as something that is built and paid for – the ribbon-cutter’s perspective.

In reality roads are being constantly rebuilt so they go on costing and the earlier payments were for capital structures now being lost to the rigors of weather, the pounding of trucks and obsolescence. Motorists don’t pay just once or twice for a road but repeatedly over the years.

“Protected from paying twice”

Hutchinson’s statement claims the amendment of hers to a US appropriations bill “protect(s) Texas taxpayers from paying twice for a highway.” Her statement contains peans of praise from state senator Robert Nichols hailing her as “a hero to every Texas driver.”

And state rep Lois Kolkhurst who led the moratorium so-called in the Texas legislature is quoted: “I deeply thank Sen. Hutchison for being a voice of reason on this issue. Asking Texans to pay twice for the same road violates the trust that should exist between people and government.”

This is blather.

Texas DOT already had a policy in place which rules out tolls on existing lanes. It has been TxDOT policy to only toll new lanes on existing roads, and Hutchinson now insists her bills place no obstacles in the way of that.

Strawman there.

And federal law already limits tolling of interstates to approved reconstruction or congestion pricing projects.

The Hutchinson amendment (2845/HR3074) merely prohibits the use of federal FY2008 funds from being used to consider imposition of tolls on existing “federal highway facilities” in Texas. Her initial amendment covered the whole of the US but she quietly added a phrase limiting the coverage of her bill to her own state, apparently because opposition was developing (especially from Pennsylvania over I-80).

Federal highway facilities are defined in Hutchinson’s bills as interstates (in S2019) and also in the appropriations amendment 2845 also as “any United States highway,” apparently a reference to US routes.

All these “federal highway facilities” are in reality state owned, state operated and state maintained roads, though they have received varying amounts of federal funding, environmental permits and route designations.

In the 2845 amendment an exemption is specified for Sec 1216 (b) of TEA21 which provides for tolling under an Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program.

see http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/h240subb.htm#1216

The posturing moves soon to the US House of Representatives.

TOLLROADSnews 2007-09-13

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KBHAm2825.pdf 206.04 KB

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