In the latest in a series of hearings on infrastructure, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held two hearings this week. On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit explored long term funding options for our nation’s highways, bridges and roads. State transportation agencies and highways users testified. There was strong bipartisan support among members of the subcommittee for raising motor fuels taxes. The gas tax was viewed as the easiest and most transparent method of raising revenue. It was pointed out that not a single state representative who voted to increase state gasoline taxes has lost their re-election due to this vote. In another show of bipartisan agreement, most members rejected the concept of tolling. Though there was some mention of private-public partnerships in general, rest area commercialization did not come up at this hearing.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao testified before the full House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure the day before the subcommittee hearing to discuss the president’s infrastructure proposal. The week before she testified before the full Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and fielded a wide range of questions and topics, including a statement from Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) regarding commercialization of rest areas. He expressed his opposition to any proposal that would overturn the long-standing ban on commercialized rest areas and pointed out the Senate voted 86 to 12 against rest area commercialization when this issue was last raised. He went on to explain how this would harm small businesses in rural areas.
In advance of the Senate hearing, NACS sent a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee opposing rest area commercialization. NACS alsosent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure before its series of hearings this week.