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An Open Letter to House of Representatives Regarding Tolling Provisions in the Highway Reauthorization Bill

March 8, 2005

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the millions of members of the groups listed below, we write in opposition to the tolling provisions that have been included in the House Transportation Bill, H.R. 3. Specifically, it is of utmost importance to taxpayers and motorists alike that the House adopts an amendment being offered by Reps. Mark Kennedy (MN) and Adam Smith (WA), which will ensure that tolls are used to create new capacity, not as an added surcharge on existing roads.

Language now contained in H.R. 3 concerning tolling would allow a new hidden tax on motorists and truckers by forcing Americans, who pay gas taxes every time they fill up the tank to pay once again for tolls. Specifically, the tolling language would make it more expensive to use existing roads at peak ?rush hour? times (High Occupancy Tolling), would allow states to convert existing interstates built and maintained with gas taxes into toll roads, and would allow tolling to continue indefinitely with no guarantees that revenues are used for needed roads.

Tolling does indeed have great promise as a tool for effectively managing traffic flow and road construction, but it must be applied in ways that expand available capacity and create net benefits for motorists and taxpayers. Tolling should not be used simply to enhance government revenue or to subsidize other forms of transportation, by forcing motorists to pay twice for existing roads. Since studies have shown that each year about 35 percent of federal fuel tax revenues are siphoned off to purposes that do not benefit the average motorist or trucker, evidence indicates that revenue alone is not enough to solve our nation?s transportation crisis.

Although here we have outlined several flaws in the current tolling proposals, we are not categorically opposed to tolling if it follows the Kennedy approach by dedicating revenues for additional road capacity and ending them completely once the capacity has been built. In fact, the Kennedy-Smith amendment will actually do far more to relieve congestion than H.R. 3 would because the amendment encourages the construction of new tolled capacity nationwide rather than in a handful of ?pilot projects.? There is indeed great potential for private companies to use High Occupancy Tolling and other traffic system management tools, and we welcome any efforts to add capacity through the Kennedy-Smith tolling provision or via privately-owned and -constructed roads.

The undersigned groups look forward to working with you in your discussions over tolling and inclusion of the Kennedy-Smith amendment in the final bill. Please feel free to call on any of us if you have additional questions.


John Berthoud
National Taxpayers Union
Thomas Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
David Keene
American Conservative Union
Chuck Muth
Citizen Outreach
Matt Kibbe
President and CEO
Eric Skrum
Communications Director
National Motorists Association
Kerri Houston
Vice President of Policy
Frontiers of Freedom Foundation