The Senate is poised to consider legislation that would extend a Texas tolling ban through September 2009. The moratorium extension was added as an amendment to transportation and housing appropriations legislation that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex.
The one-year ban, first approved in 2007, prohibits tollbooths on federally funded highways that are already built in Texas. The ban would not prevent efforts to toll new federal highways or planned lanes on roads such as Interstate 35W and Northeast Loop 820 in Texas.
Hutchison in a release said that she will push for a "permanent prohibition" of tollbooths in her home state.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry last summer signed into law a statewide transportation bill that expanded the tolling powers granted to local transportation authorities, and the state legislature last October passed a two-year moratorium on most privately funded turnpikes.
Texas pays more into the federal highway fund than it receives, and the highway trust fund faces a potential $3.3 billion shortfall in 2009. Transportation lobbyists argue that the funding shortage would sideline new highway and bridge construction projects. Tolling is among an array of options federal lawmakers are considering to fix the ailing highway fund.
Meanwhile, lawmakers may add a similar amendment that would affect Pennsylvania in transportation appropriations legislation pending in a House Appropriations Committee.Rep. John E. Peterson, R-Pa., intends to put forward an amendment to House spending legislation that would mirror the Texas ban along Pennsylvania's Interstate 80.