Monday, September 17, 2007

What she really said...

Clearing things up

Sep 17, 2007

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has made some headlines recently with her vocal opposition to any idea that would call for tolls on interstate highways. She even inserted an amendment formalizing that restriction into a 2008 transportation, housing and urban development appropriations bill.

But just to be clear: That doesn't mean you won't one day be paying tolls as you drive on Interstate 35W or on Northeast Loop 820.

Hutchison opposes tolls on existing highway lanes only, a spokesman says. Tolls on newly constructed lanes or new highways would not be prohibited under either the one-year appropriations bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday or under longer-term legislation already filed by the senator.

The Texas Department of Transportation, following the lead of similar authorities from other states, has explored the idea of a "buy back" of some federal highways and turning them into toll roads with the consent of local governments. Hutchison, quite rightly, objects to charging tolls on roads that taxpayers have already paid for.

Plans for I-35W on the north side of Fort Worth and for Northeast Loop 820 call for newly constructed toll lanes. That's OK in Hutchison's estimation, so long as the road continues to have just as many non-toll lanes as it has today.

"I've long believed that if local communities and the state want to come together and build a toll road, they should be able to do so," the senator says in a news release about the issue.

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