ATFI Statement on Passage of DRIVE Act

JULY 30, 2015--The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) is pleased that the Senate passed the DRIVE Act this afternoon, an important step toward passage of a multi-year highway funding bill. While we are grateful that the legislation did not expand the number of slots in the Interstate System Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP), ATFI is disappointed with some of the DRIVE Act’s provisions related to the ISRRPP. This pilot program has provided 17 years worth of evidence that tolling existing interstates is unviable, as no state has succeeded in levying tolls even after multiple attempts. The ISRRPP should be repealed, not expanded.

The DRIVE Act lowers the bar for approval of pilot programs and makes it more difficult for the public to challenge pilot program approvals. Given the significant implications of tolling an existing interstate for safety, jobs, and economic development, among other things, approval requirements should not be weakened, nor should the public be prevented from having a say in the outcome. Disturbingly, the DRIVE Act also allows states to divert collected tolls away from the tolled road, essentially stealing from Peter to pay Paul. This kind of cash cow abuses public trust and exploits highway drivers with a tax on interstates to pay for completely unrelated projects, all without solving the transportation funding problem.

Tolling interstate lanes which drivers now freely access is an inefficient financing mechanism that is the worst possible approach to raising transportation revenue. Electronic tolls can waste 14% to 20% of revenues on administrative costs. Tolls also divert traffic onto secondary streets, which leads to premature road maintenance costs for local taxpayers, and since secondary roads are less safe, diversion endangers public safety.

We urge Congress to reconsider these changes in conference committee, and to eliminate the pilot altogether. After 17 years it should be evident that this approach is unlikely to succeed.

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