Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-SC, and Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, introduced The Interstate Tolls Relief Act of 1999 (S. 947). The bill would undo the provision of last year's Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century that allowed for a pilot program for as many as three states to put tolls on existing Interstates.
In introducing the bill, McCain told the Senate that during reauthorization of the federal highway bill, TEA-21, last year, "I think that we may have gone too far in authorizing states additional means to raise revenue for highway improvements. These means to raise revenue are not productive and hurt our system of transportation.
"I believe that highway tolls are a non-productive and overly intrusive means of raising revenue causing more harm to commerce than can be justified."
The senators say that the funding from TEA-21, along with hikes in fuel taxes that several states have implemented this legislative session, provide enough funding that Interstate tolls are not needed.
The Hollings-McCain bill would prevent new Interstate tolls and restrict other tolling authority for major bridges and tunnels. It does not prevent states from tolling non-Interstate highways. It also does not affect tolls on highways where they are already in place. And, in cases where no other option is available to fund a major Interstate bridge or tunnel project, states may consider tolls as an option.
The American Trucking Assns. and the South Carolina Trucking Assn. immediately announced their support for the bill. "Americans - and America's trucking industry - should not have to pay tolls on highways for which we've already paid our fair share," says ATA President and CEO Walter McCormick. "To do so is like paying rent on a home you've already purchased."
McCain is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation. Hollings is the ranking Democratic member of the committee. McCain is also a potential candidate for the 2000 presidential race.