By Max Durbin, F76454
National Vice President, International Area
Chairman, Governmental And Legislative Affairs Committee
The United States Congress is considering legislation that, if passed, may result in greater costs to motorists using the interstate highway system. A bill called the “Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users” (TEA LU), or House Resolution 3, has already passed the House of Representatives and has been sent to the Senate for concurrence.
The bill has many parts, but it’s Section 1603 that we are considering here. The first paragraph of the section provides the gist of the matter: “Section 1603. Interstate system reconstruction and rehabilitation toll pilot program. Establishment: The Secretary shall establish and implement an Interstate System reconstruction and rehabilitation toll pilot program under which the Secretary, notwithstanding Sections 129 and 301 of Title 23, United States Code, may permit a state to collect tolls on a highway, bridge, or tunnel on the Interstate Systems for the purpose of reconstructing or rehabilitating the facility.”
Other facets of this resolution establish limitations, eligibility, and management plans and are not quoted here because of their length and complexity.
As mentioned, House Resolution 3 has been passed and sent to the Senate. If you are opposed to it becoming law, you should take a few minutes and send a letter to each of your state’s two U.S. senators. If you need some ideas about what to include in the letter, you may wish to adopt some of the following points. I have avoided providing a suggested letter, because form letters do not receive much attention. Sending an e-mail message to your congressional representative is helpful, but workers in an elected official’s office typically react more favorably to showing officials letters that were sent via “regular” mail.
Late developments from Washington seem to indicate that President Bush likely would veto this legislation, if passed. While we would like to rely on this information, it is still best to let our voices be heard by stopping its enactment.
Further late developments from Washington indicate that a proposed joint House-Senate compromise has been offered to create a high-occupancy-vehicle toll lane adjacent to freeway lanes in lieu of additional toll roads. This seems to hurt workers and businesspeople, and the cost to implement and maintain this system would seem to outweigh the benefits. Thus, I urge your rejection of this notion along with rejection of any additional toll roads on the interstate system.
Suggested ideas for inclusion in a personal letter to your state’s two U.S. senators:
- When the interstate system was created during the Eisenhower Administration, the right of free access was included, and the federal government was to provide funds to assist in maintenance of the interstates.
- Over the past 50 years, certain states have allowed substantial increases in weight limits, or allow driving on the roadway surface with studded tires, which, coupled with an increasing volume of heavy truck traffic as well as reduced preventative maintenance, is the cause behind this extraordinary effort to raise funds by Congress. One might wonder, however, what does Congress do with the vast sums of money raised by the taxes levied on fuel?
- States with a high volume of traffic would benefit from tolls on the interstate, whereas states with low volume would suffer. Compare Georgia to Montana to see the point.
- Motorhomes are made using American products. Adding highway use tolls will surely cause a reduction in the numbers of these units sold to consumers, thus causing a resultant loss of jobs.
- Many states have allowed their former U.S. routes and/or state routes to deteriorate or disappear completely because of their reliance on the interstate. Travelers have no choice but to use the interstates, and if House Resolution 3 becomes law, they will do so at possible increased expense.
- On that subject, adding tolls will create an economic hardship. They discriminate against low-income workers and young families who are forced to use the interstate to go to work or perform other necessary travel.
- All states except Alaska have interstates. If the pilot project is extended, which we fear is inevitable, then there must be uniformity. If Congress believes that more money is needed for maintenance, then added fuel taxes to cover excessive wear and tear on the system should be implemented, but not for the recreational or casual users of the system. We also are concerned that eventually, states and counties will piggyback on the plan, thus exacerbating the financial problems of the low-income workers and young families.
- States that use referendums or initiative petition-type legislation will create a hodgepodge of conflicting tolls, unrepaired roads, and traffic congestion.
Of course, you may write anything else that you believe will motivate your state’s senators to help stop this legislation; the above were just some thoughts that came to mind. The letter can be short and to the point, such as “Please vote against House Resolution 3 when it appears on the floor of the Senate.” Sign it and mail it in.
Please consider the long-term ramifications of such national government action. It is believed to be a substantial problem, and at this point the only avenue open to us to stop it is through an active letter-writing campaign to our senators. Contact information is listed below. Thank you for your patience in reading this notice and for assisting FMCA in trying to stop this extension of toll roads, bridges, and tunnels in our interstate highway system.
To read the entire bill, go to www.gpoaccess.gov/bills/index.html and type in the name of the bill, HR 3.
If you do not have Internet access and wish to receive information about how to contact your state senators, call the House and Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
The other two Web sites below provide information about who your state’s congressional representatives are and how to contact them.