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An Open Letter to the United States Senate: Support the Hutchison-Nelson Amendment on Tolling

May 5, 2005

Dear Senator:

During consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill (S. 732), you will be asked to consider a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Ben Nelson (D-NE), to prevent tolls from being imposed on existing Interstate highways.

On behalf of the more than one million members of the undersigned organizations, we respectfully urge you to vote YES on the Hutchison-Nelson amendment.

The amendment simply eliminates a pilot program, created in 1998, that allows up to three states to toll existing Interstate highways.Since its inclusion in TEA-21, the program has yet to be utilized by any state.However, it is also important to note that this amendment will not affect states' ability to convert HOV lanes to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes or to add new, voluntary use toll lanes to Interstates. This is notable because, although taxpayers oppose Congressional efforts to allow state governments to tap unrestricted new sources of revenue, we are not opposed to tolling per se.Instead, at the very least, if tolls are to be placed on existing Interstate Highways, states should be required to protect users of those roads from double taxation.

Highway users currently pay more than $35 billion annually in federal fuel taxes and other fees to support highway maintenance and construction. In addition, motorists contribute more than $50 billion each year in state and local highway user fees. Imposing tolls on existing Interstate highway lanes on top of these fees would be unfair and inequitable, and would prove to be a very difficult burden at a time of record fuel prices. One national survey found that 66% of likely voters opposed Congress granting states the authority to toll existing Interstates.

As a user fee, tolling presents great promise for the future. But, instead of focusing exclusively on the new revenue possibilities associated with expanding the practice, Congress should also consider ways to make road projects less costly. Alternatives include addressing expensive Davis-Bacon rules and reducing the number of earmarks and non-road items (such as transit, bike trails, and museums) that are funded by taxes on motorists.

We would very much appreciate your support on this issue and we urge you to vote for the Hutchison-Nelson amendment.


John Berthoud
National Taxpayers Union

Kerri Houston
Vice President of Policy
Frontiers of Freedom Foundation

Thomas Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Michelle Korsmo
Executive Vice President
Americans for Prosperity

David Keene
American Conservative Union

Matt Kibbe
President and CEO