Bill May Restrict Toll Hikes

Representative Micheal Grimm R-New York and Senator Frank Lautenber, D-New Jersey are calling for fiscal management regarding tolls. They have recently introduced a bill that would restore the ability of the United States Department of Transportation to determine the fairness of toll hikes and issue tolls that are reasonable. Lautenburg is the chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation. This committee has jurisdiction over policy regarding interstate trucking and transportation. He believes there is something wrong when it costs $12 to drive a passenger vehicle across a single bridge in America. Americans with truck driving jobs are paying even more.

Until 1987, the U.S. DOT had the ability to decide whether tolls were reasonable and investigated whenever there were complaints about toll amounts. The proposed legislation would give the Secretary of Transportation back the ability to limit local authorities to a maximum toll amount if the tolls being charged are determined to be unfair. Under the proposed bill, the Government Accountability Office would be required to make recommendations and report on increasing the accountability and transparency of budget practices by tolling authorities.

On August 19, 2011, a toll increase was approved by the Port Authority to raise tolls for cars who travel between NJ and NY from eight dollars to $15 by the year 2015. Cars with an E-Z Pass will be charged $12.50 by 2015, increased from eight dollars. Trucking companies with five-axle trucks currently pay $40 per truck, and they will be charged up to $105 in the same time period. Truck driving jobs in the area are likely to become limited as companies tighten their belts to pay the high tolls. The new legislation is being supported by many organizations, including the American Motorcyclist Association, the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Associaton, AAA New York and AAA Clubs of New Jersey.

Commuters and trucking companies are suffering through high tolls while the states of New Jersey and New York and the Port Authority are having trouble explaining the necessity of the toll hikes they have imposed. Federal oversight is necessary to ensure that the funds these tolls bring in are not misappropriated. The tolls imposed on commercial vehicles are even higher than those imposed on passenger vehicles. Thus, legislation known as the Commuter Protection Act would give the DOT back the authority to decide whether tolls being imposed by local authorities are reasonable and fair.

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