By David Tanner
The third time proved to be a charm for concerned truckers, businesses and taxpayers that rely on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania.
The proposal to toll I-80 officially went down in flames in April as the Federal Highway Administration rejected tolling authority for the third time since 2007.
“It shows that accountability and the responsible use of taxpayer resources wins the day and that diversion of those hard-earned dollars for unrelated uses is unacceptable,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said.
“As we have been saying for over two years, the Pennsylvania legislation known as Act 44 was flawed from the beginning, forcing the state DOT and the Turnpike to apply not once, not twice, but three times for tolling authority on I-80. We hope they have finally recognized they have struck out and should take a seat on the bench.”
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stated that, under law, the state could not divert I-80 toll revenue to other state programs as the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s application implied.
“We based today’s decision on what is allowable under federal law,” LaHood announced April 6.
Gov. Ed Rendell conceded defeat of the toll proposal during a press conference. He planned to call a special session of the Legislature to discuss transportation.
Rendell had banked on potential I-80 toll revenue, incorporating it into his 2010 budget request. Without the tolls, he said the state would fall behind by $310 million per year.
State transportation officials say everything else remains on the table, including tax increases or the possibility of leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors. That’s a battle for another day.
Joining truckers in celebrating the defeat of I-80 tolls were U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-PA, and former Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, who worked tirelessly in the effort.
Other lawmakers shared in the victory as well, including Democratic Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper, Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney, as well as numerous state representatives and senators. LL