Utilities push Obama to nix highway tolls for emergency response

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Hurricane Sandy's aftermath left thousands of East Coast residents without power for weeks last fall. The disastrous storm caused billions in damage, and Congress provided more than $60 billion in aid despite objections from fiscal conservatives.

The source said utility workers dispatched to help restore power after Hurricane Sandy were slowed down by tolls. Instructing toll operators to let those trucks through could speed restoration time.

Doing so would also limit the costs for utilities that sent employees from the Midwest by car, the source noted.

The federal government also should continue using its resources to fly utility workers from distant parts of the country to the scene of disasters, the source said.

The Defense Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency flew utility workers from the West Coast to the East Coast to assist with the recovery. The industry source said those efforts shaved between three and five days off the restoration time.

The industry source said some big-ticket items floated by policymakers and observers shortly after Hurricane Sandy weren’t feasible, or wouldn’t work.

For example, the source noted that putting power lines underground — an idea that gained currency in some circles following the storm — wouldn’t have helped in New York, given the amount of flooding that occurred.