By Miles Moore, Senior Washington Reporter
WASHINGTON (May 2, 2014) — The four-year, $302 billion transportation funding bill the Obama administration sent Congress April 29 includes provisions that would remove the prohibition against placing tolls on interstate highways.
The bill also would mandate an enormous increase in the maximum civil penalty for the safety recall of a tire, auto or auto part to $300 million from the current $35 million.
While not mandating tolls on interstates, the bill would leave up to the individual states whether to place toll booths on federal highways within their borders. Only a few of the older roads in the interstate network — including the Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes — charge tolls on motorists.
While some stakeholders supported the proliferation of toll roads to fund highway projects, others expressed disappointment in the administration's funding suggestions in general — not just toll roads but also the one-time $150 billion payment from business tax reforms to fund highway and infrastructure repairs.
“We have real questions about the viability of the administration's plan to use one-time proceeds from an unspecified and unlikely-to-pass corporate tax reform idea, along with inefficient highway tolling or private capital financing,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) is completely opposed to placing tolls on interstate highways, according to TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield. The proliferation of toll roads, Mr. Littlefield said, has already hastened the deterioration of America's highways.
“This is a huge problem for truckers,” he said. “When you lease a road for 99 years, you have to make a return on your investment. This means that maintenance is nonexistent, and the roads are in terrible shape.”