AAA: Motorists tolls used for roads they don’t use

Apr 18, 2012, 5:33 PM

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Tolls are increasingly being diverted to pay for transportation projects and other expenses unrelated to roadways, bridges and tunnels used by the motorists who pay the fees, the nation’s largest auto club said Wednesday.

The diversion of tolls for unrelated projects undermines the “user pays” principle behind transportation tolls and weakens public support for them, Chris Plaushin, director of federal relations for AAA, told a hearing of the highway subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

A bill introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., the subcommittee chairman, would give the secretary of transportation the power to reject toll increases on highways and bridges that receive federal aid if they are judged to be excessive. Plaushin and a trucking official said they support the bill, but an official representing state departments of transportation expressed concern that it would hinder the ability of states to pay for transportation needs.

Federal and state gas and diesel taxes have paid for the bulk of highway costs since construction of the interstate highway system began in the 1950s. But Congress hasn’t raised the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal gas tax in nearly two decades. Not only has the buying power of the tax eroded, but tax revenue also is down because people are driving less and the fuel efficiency of cars is increasing.

But raising fuel taxes, especially when gas prices are already high, is politically unpalatable. As a result, states are increasingly turning to tolls to pay for upkeep of roads and bridges, as well as a way build expanded capacity.

“We’re not anti-tolling, but we think some accountability in the process is needed,” Plaushin said.

The hearing was prompted by significant toll hikes approved last year by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It now costs as much as $12 for motorists paying cash rather an using an automated toll system to cross between New York and New Jersey using the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, or the George Washington bridge and other bridges. Because of those and other recently approved increases in the Northeast, by the year 2015 a trip from Baltimore to New York will cost a 5-axle truck more than $209 in tolls, said Steve Grabell, chief financial officer of the New Jersey trucking firm NFI, who testified on behalf of the trucking industry.

The hearing was marked by several acrimonious exchanges between Lautenberg and Bill Baroni, the Port Authority’s deputy executive director. When Lautenberg questioned Baroni on whether he thought $12 was a “fair” toll, Baroni ignored the question. Instead, he switched the subject, pointing out that at one time Lautenberg had a free E-Z Pass _ an automated toll charging system that enables motorists to use faster toll lanes _ paid for by the Port Authority because he had formerly been a Port Authority commissioner.

Lautenberg, apparently caught by surprise, said he wasn’t going to allow Baroni to discuss such “silliness” and cut off his remarks. Instead, the senator pressed Baroni for information about conversations between Port Authority officials and the offices of the governors of New York and New Jersey leading up to the toll hikes.

“I’m not going to comment on who said what and when,” Baroni responded.

“You are going to comment,” Lautenberg fired back, reminding Baroni that he had an obligation to testify truthfully. Baroni said he was “offended” by the inference he wasn’t telling the truth.

After several more testy exchanges, Lautenberg abruptly gaveled the hearing to a close.

___

Follow Joan Lowy at
http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Uncategorized

...
Promotions

Dead & Company – The Final Tour

Dead & Company - The Final Tour will be at Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre on May 23. Register now for your chance to win tickets!!
1 month ago
Danny Shapiro

Who is running in 2022 related links

Testing. Follow @DannyShapiro13
3 months ago
Tyler Bassett

2022 Post-Election relateds

Follow @Tyler_Bassett
3 months ago
Kevin Stone

2022 general election relateds

Testing. Follow @kstonezone
3 months ago
Associated Press

Correction: Electric Vehicles-Urban Living story

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — In a story published October 25, 2022, about electric vehicle chargers, The Associated Press erroneously reported the number of commercial chargers — ones not in private homes — that are publicly accessible in Los Angeles. There are 4,367, not about 3,000. Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material […]
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
AAA: Motorists tolls used for roads they don’t use