After the Arkansas state Legislature passed a highway plan that will use bonds and new fuel taxes to fund repair of the state's crumbling highways, the state Highway Commission has officially dropped a proposal to put tolls on existing interstate highways.
The deadline to apply for the new federal pilot program, authorized under last year's TEA-21 highway bill, was the close of business Wednesday.
The proposal that was being considered would have put tollbooths on Interstates 30, 40, and 55. Truckers would have paid $1 per axle. Trucking interests and anti-tax groups lobbied heavily against the proposal, which they characterized as double taxation.
"The Highway Commission has heard our message loud and clear," said Jennifer Matthews of Citizens for Safe and Efficient Highways. "Our latest public opinion survey showed that nearly 70% of Arkansas voters oppose interstate tolls."
Gov. Mike Huckabee signed the new highway program Thursday. It includes a 4-cent diesel tax — 2 cents immediately, and 2 cents added next year. A 3-cent gasoline tax will be phased in over three years. There is also a bond program that will be voted on by the public.