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Bill gives feds oversight over toll hikes

Monday - 12/19/2011, 8:40am  ET

WASHINGTON - Drivers are angry that they're paying more to cross bridges and go through tunnels.

Now, a bill in Congress would give oversight of toll hikes back to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which had the authority until 1987.

The Commuter Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Michael Grimm, R- N.Y., would let the transportation department determine whether tolls are "just and reasonable."

"Maybe this is a sign of greater activism on the part of motorists, and a growing backlash against using toll money for purposes other than transportation money," says AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.

Townsend says drivers are upset that authorities are "using toll money to fund other transportation projects, or for projects that have nothing to do with transportation too."

With this bill, if tolls were ruled unfair, the federal transportation secretary could order a more reasonable maximum.

The bill also calls for the Government Accountability Office to make recommendations for increasing transparency in how tolls are set.

While Maryland has increased tolls for its bridges and tunnels, they're not nearly as dramatic as toll hikes in New Jersey and New York. The toll for cars traveling between those states will go from $8 to $15 for drivers who don't have EZ-Pass. For those who do, the toll will rise to $12.50.

The American Trucking Association supports the bill.

WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report. Follow Andrew and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)