Highway Bill Advances in Senate
Wednesday, June 24th the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) passes their version of a long-term highway bill reports the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF). The six-year bill easily passed with bipartisan support. The “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy” Act or DRIVE Act would increase funding levels from a 2012 transportation law at an average of 3% annually to come up with $260 billion for highway infrastructure programs. The measure was voted out of the committee with a vote of 20-0.
The issue of allowing for more states to the pilot program of new tolling of existing interstate highway was removed from the final version of the bill. The pilot program to test tolling existing interstate roads still exists, keeping the number of states that may participate at three. However, EPW did include a “use it or lose it” clause that would force a state participating in the program to abandon the pilot after a number of years if they are unable to get the program started. This is significant because this pilot program has been in existence for 17 years and none of the states have ever been able to put a tolling pilot program in place due to massive public outcry. In short, it allows the feds to pick an area of the country that may be more friendly to (or just more used to) increased tolling.
Another disturbing provision of the DRIVE act would allow states to divert tolls collected away from the tolled road to fund other government programs—the very definition of the proverbial “Stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”
There is no mention of motorcycles in this portion of the highway bill. Issue of motorcycle-only checkpoints will be addressed in a forthcoming bill from another committee.
Thank you to everyone who made calls and sent emails to the EPW committee members. Your voice was integral to the non-expansion of the tolling program.