PA Turnpike responds to anti-toll report on I-80

| 10/13/2009

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s effort to convert Interstate 80 into a toll road continues, but not without the commission’s economic team taking into consideration a study published by anti-tolling groups.

In response to the “I-80 Tolling Impact Study,” published on Monday, Oct. 12, by the No Tolls on I-80 Coalition, turnpike officials say they share some of the same concerns.

“In the past two years, we’ve heard loud and clear that businesspeople and elected officials in the I-80 corridor are concerned about the effects of increased transportation costs, and I reassure them that we share those concerns,” Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier said in a statement.

“Though we’ve not yet seen the study, our economic team will evaluate the data from the document and consider its conclusions if we receive federal authorization to proceed.”

The coalition’s study showed that tolling I-80 – a concept proposed in state legislation known as Act 44 of 2007 – would hurt an already fragile economy in Pennsylvania and affect safety as trucks and cars divert to alternative toll-free routes.

The study also showed that truckers paid $90 million in fuel and other taxes and fees while traveling I-80 in 2006. That figure exceeded the state’s $80 million budget to operate and maintain the highway, according to the report. Add in another $40 million in tax revenue from cars and light trucks, and the concept of tolls is unnecessary, the author of the study wrote.

But Pennsylvania, like other states, continues to claim budget shortfalls, including for transportation and infrastructure.

Brimmeier previously told Land Line that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is obligated through Act 44 to seek tolling authority on I-80 and is on the hook to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the state each year.

In his latest statement, Brimmeier says the Turnpike Commission’s focus is to take the anti-toll report into consideration and assess how Act 44 spending will affect employment and other economic factors in the I-80 corridor and throughout the state.

“Our efforts to help solve the state’s transportation-funding crisis under Act 44 cannot and will not come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s economy,” Brimmeier stated.

– By David Tanner, staff writer