Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s bond issue and 3-cent diesel tax are moving forward in the state Legislature, while Highway Commission members want time to look over a draft plan to put tollbooths on existing interstates.
The Arkansas House Revenue and Taxation committee unanimously voted to support Huckabee’s highway plan, which features a $575 million bond issue and increasing the diesel tax by 3 cents per gallon to rebuild the state’s poor interstates.
Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Motor Carriers Assn., used his appearance before the committee to attack the independent state Highway Commission for its idea to charge tolls on interstates under a federal pilot program.
Commission members for the first time saw a draft plan for the toll proposal, and asked for time to look over it. The panel has until the end of March to apply to the Federal Highway Administration for approval of the toll program.
Under the plan presented Wednesday, toll booths would be placed on I-30 between Texarkana and Malvern; I-40 from Dyer to Menifee and from Lonoke to Shearersville; and I-55 from Clarkedale to the Missouri state line and from James Mill to the state line. Tolls would be collected between the years 2002 and 2016 at seven main booths and 108 interchange booths. Passenger cars would be charged $1 at the main booth and trucks would be charged $1 per axle.
The commission also is considering a proposal that would charge tolls to cross four bridges in the state. Toll booths would be at Illinois Bayou on I-40; White River on I-40; Arkansas Midland Railroad on I-30; and Upper Sandy Bayou on I-55. The state does not need federal approval to charge tolls for bridges or tunnels that are being reconstructed or replaced. Under the plan, those bridges would be improved.
Earlier this session, a bill failed that would have stripped the Highway Commission of its authority to establish tollroads in the state without legislative consent.
A coalition of unhappy truckers and citizens groups addressed the Highway Commission last week, the same day the commission received the draft report. “We believe that our federal interstate highway system was built and continues to be paid for with our fuel taxes and registration fees,” said Jennifer Matthews of Citizens for Safe and Efficient Highways. “No state should attempt to use this highway system to extract rental fees for something we already own.”