Arkansas legislation that would have removed the state Highway Commission’s authority to add tolls to existing interstates failed to make it out of committee last week, but the newest commission member says there may be no need to go ahead with the toll program.
A bill would have required the state Legislature and the governor to approve toll stations. But supporters say they may try to get a resolution passed instead.
Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Huckabee’s newest appointee to the commission says that if the Legislature approves the governor’s $784 million highway plan, there may be no tollbooths on the highways. Huckabee’s plan includes the sale of bonds and a 3-cent diesel tax hike.
“Some of the commissioners have gone on record … in small meetings one-on-one … not to toll anything if this highway package of the governor’s will pass,” said commission member Jonathan Barnett to the Associated Press.
Barnett and other commission members lobbied to kill the toll measure, which would have put tolling authority back in the hands of the Legislature. Lawmakers gave the commission authority over tolls in 1973.
In those 26 years, the commission has never had to deal with tolls. But last year, with more traffic and deteriorating interstates, the Highway and Transportation department identified maintenance projects to be considered for funding with toll collection points on Interstates 30, 40 and 55. This would be possible under a pilot program established in last year’s federal highway bill.