Federal officials again reject tolling I-80
Share with others:
HARRISBURG -- The federal government has once again rejected Pennsylvania's effort to place first-time tolls on Interstate 80.
As a result, Gov. Ed Rendell this afternoon called for a special sessions of the state Legislature to find a way to replace about $472 million in funds expected to be generated from charging tolls on the highway.
Such a session, during which transportation funding would be the only issue for discussion, could begin by the end of this month. Mr. Rendell said he would want it to finish its work by the end of the fiscal year June 30 to coincide with the new state budget.
Under Act 44 of 2007, Pennsylvania planned to raise at least $900 million a year by increasing tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and by tolling I-80. Turnpike tolls have already begun to rise, and will continue doing so each Jan. 1
However, as of July 1, without the I-80 tolls, there will be only $450 million available this year for road and bridge repair and for mass transit systems; $250 million will go for transit and $200 million for road and bridge work. If the tolls on I-80 were approved, about $922 million would have been available this year.
Mass transit systems, such as the Allegheny County Port Authority and SEPTA in Philadelphia, will be hurt by the rejection of the I-80 tolls. Port Authority spokeswoman Judi McNeill said the system already had anticipated a $25 million deficit for the budget year starting July 1 -- red ink that will climb to $50 million without additional funds from tolls. She said it's too soon to say if that would mean fare increases or service cuts.
A 2006 PennDOT study had recommended higher gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees, but legislators were reluctant to do that, and came up with Act 44 as a substitute.
"People talk about having a Plan B to replace the I-80 toll revenue, but Act 44 was our Plan B," said state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville, head of the House Transportation Committee.
"Now we need Plan C -- C standing for cuts," said Rep. David Levdansky, D-Forward.
He said PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler should draw up a list of road and bridge projects that will have to be eliminated due to a lack of funds. He said the projects to be cut should come from northern Pennsylvania, since people who use the turnpike are paying hefty tolls but those who use I-80 aren't paying tolls and m,any lobbied against them.
First Published April 6, 2010 2:16 pm