Pennsylvania House plans offer alternatives for transportation funding

| 6/22/2007

A plan unveiled this week in Pennsylvania would add tolls on all the state’s major interstates. Truckers would be called on to provide the bulk of revenues.

A separate plan would rely on taxes, fees and tolling one major route in the state.

Two House Republicans have called for placing tolls on Interstates 78, 79, 80, 81 and 95 during the next several years to eventually generate $800 million annually. The revenue would be earmarked for road and bridge work and mass transit systems.

Reps. Scott Petri of New Hope and Doug Reichley of Emmaus said their plan would help eat into the state’s $1.7 billion a year transportation shortfall without raising taxes or leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private group, The Patriot News reported.

Petri said he is hopeful the tolls could be structured to force trucks and other travelers to foot most of the bill.

Gov. Ed Rendell has called for leasing the 530-mile turnpike to private investors and imposing a tax on oil company operations to help pay for transportation projects. The Democratic governor said a lease deal could net the state $965 million a year for roads and bridges. The tax on oil company profits could add $760 million annually for mass transit.

That plan has won few supporters among lawmakers, including many House Democrats who released their alternative this week. Their plan includes raising fees and fuel taxes, adding tolls on I-80, as well as borrowing against future toll increases on the turnpike.

Democrats say their plan could raise $1.8 billion by 2012.

House lawmakers are expected to vote on a compromise version of the plans as early as Monday, June 25.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor