Pennsylvania lawmakers want I-80 toll law repealed

| 6/11/2008

Highway user groups, including OOIDA, joined U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, Chamber of Commerce groups and a dozen state lawmakers this week in calling for the repeal of a law that includes a proposal to toll Interstate 80.

Protesters and speakers gathered Monday, June 9, on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg to protest Act 44, signed into law in July 2007 by Gov. Ed Rendell. Act 44 calls for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to operate Interstate 80 and be permitted to seek federal authority to convert it to a toll road.

Peterson and others are calling for a repeal of the law before the Pennsylvania General Assembly leaves Harrisburg for summer recess scheduled after budget negotiations are complete on or after June 30.

“Until Act 44 is repealed, Pennsylvania will not compete with neighboring states on the national scale and continue to lose good-paying, family sustaining jobs,” Peterson stated following the event. “In light of record energy prices, and the prospect of tollbooths being erected on I-80, the economic future of Pennsylvania is in grave danger.”

Mike Joyce, senior government affairs representative for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, spoke at the rally to let lawmakers and the public know where truckers stand on the issue.

“I told them who we represent and the difficulty of living on the road with $5 diesel and tolls,” Joyce told Land Line. “I complimented the congressman on pointing out that proposals like this do nothing to further Pennsylvania’s economy.”

Joyce said speakers did not discuss a plan by the governor to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to investors.

“This was about Act 44,” Joyce said, “They’re out to repeal this thing by the end of the month.”

Joyce said lawmakers he has spoken with consider the proposed turnpike lease to be a “hard sell” in the Assembly and said a vote to enable the leasing scenario is not likely to happen until at least the fall.

Act 44 is a more pressing matter this month because it is the existing transportation funding law in Pennsylvania, he said.

“Lawmakers are going to want to see something in its place,” he said. “We would like to see them go back to the basics. The government needs to spend resources resourcefully, reliably, and restore trust in the taxpayers.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer