Report finds truckers fund entire I-80 budget in PA

| 10/12/2009

A coalition of business leaders in Pennsylvania says tolls on I-80 in Pennsylvania would drive up costs, force truckers onto secondary roads, and do more harm than good to the state’s fragile economy.

The report, titled “I-80 Tolling Impact Study,” prepared for and funded by the No Tolls on I-80 Coalition, shows that fuel taxes from trucks and cars more than pay for the operation and maintenance of I-80 and, therefore, the proposal to toll the interstate is not necessary.

Report author Tracy Miller, an associate professor of economics at Grove City College, stated in the document released Monday, Oct. 12, that truckers paid more than $90 million in taxes and user fees to use I-80 in 2006. That number was greater than the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s annual budget of $80 million to operate and maintain the highway.

Add to that the $40 million generated by cars and light trucks, and it gives Pennsylvania $130 million to maintain an $80 million operations budget for I-80.

“Since users of Interstate 80 already pay the costs of maintaining the highway through fuel and other road use taxes, there is no good reason why they should pay an additional tax via tolls,” Miller wrote.

“Moreover, tolls will impose a large burden on firms in some of the least prosperous counties in Pennsylvania while encouraging many trucks and cars to use alternate routes that are less safe and efficient.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has been pursuing tolls on I-80 since state lawmakers passed Act 44 in 2007. To date, the Federal Highway Administration has rejected the state’s application twice for not meeting criteria outlined in a pilot program that would authorize the tolling of a federal interstate.

OOIDA leadership continues to support the anti-tolling effort in Pennsylvania and agrees with the coalition’s report.

“This report highlights the devastating impact that tolling existing highways would have on our economy,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce told Land Line.

“That’s not just for Pennsylvania. That goes for any existing highway where politicians are trying to get water out of a stone.”

Also supporting the findings of the anti-toll report on Monday were U.S. Representatives from Pennsylvania Glenn Thompson, a Republican, and Kathy Dahlkemper, a Democrat. They spoke during a pair of rollout events in Lamar and Grove City, PA, which included state and local lawmakers and economic development officials.

“I can assure you today is the beginning of new grassroots efforts from across the state to urge Harrisburg to repeal Act 44 and go back to the drawing board on this flawed plan,” Thompson said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has all but asserted that truckers are not paying their fair share and that the state could capitalize on toll revenue from out-of-state truckers.

The coalition report cited the $90 million paid by truckers to counter that assertion.

“Some proponents assert that tolls are necessary so that vehicles using I‐80 will pay their fair share of the costs of maintaining this important highway,” the author stated.

“Using data on highway taxes and vehicle miles traveled on Interstate 80, this report demonstrates that users of Interstate 80 already pay more than the amount that PennDOT spends each year to maintain Interstate 80.”

As long haul truckers, OOIDA members are among those paying the most taxes in fuel and federal user fees.

“We’ve been clear time and time again that trucks are paying their fair share to maintain I-80,” Joyce said.

“This report certainly highlighted some numbers to make that point clear.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer