The public-private partnership concept could be dealt a blow if Congress approves a bill filed Thursday that would prohibit states, private ventures, or public-private combinations from imposing tolls on users of existing federal highways.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said that collecting tolls was “fundamentally unfair,” because taxpayers paid twice for the same asset.
Under the Bush administration, tolling was part of a list of user-paid options to increase revenue for highway maintenance.
Hutchison said tolling was a “band-aid solution” to the problem of highway funding that would ultimately lead to congestion and the diversion of traffic onto residential streets.
Hutchison said her bill leaves open the option that taxpayers could vote to use tolls to pay for highway improvement or the addition of lanes.
This follows the introduction of a bill by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would eliminate federal subsidies paid to the owners of privatized highways.
The bills could represent a major challenge to the concept of public-private partnerships and toll road leasing as practiced in recent years.
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