Public policy group prefers turnpike lease to a tolled I-80

| 8/7/2007

A public policy group is calling for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Ed Rendell to repeal portions of recent transportation legislation that propose increasing tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and converting Interstate 80 into a toll road.

But, an OOIDA official said, the reasoning is flawed because the group, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, favors leasing the turnpike to private investors.

The Commonwealth Foundation issued a call Monday, Aug. 6, for the state government to repeal the toll proposals because they don’t go far enough to fund the state’s transportation needs.

According to its Web site, the Commonwealth Foundation is based in Pennsylvania and is a non-profit research and educational institute dedicated to the ideals of property owners and limiting government control.

Foundation CEO Michael Brouillette stated that his group prefers a long-term lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors instead of Rendell’s proposal to toll I-80 and increase turnpike tolls.

OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Rod Nofziger said OOIDA disagrees with the Commonwealth Foundation’s reasoning, saying there has been no discussion about how the state reached a conclusion that a lack of funding was the problem.

“We think there are more options than just either more tolls or selling roads,” Nofziger told Land Line. “First and foremost, though, there has been no discussion in the Pennsylvania debate on how existing transportation funding and revenue streams are being spent.”

OOIDA officials believe highway funds are spent on much more than just highways, and it has been going on for many years.

Under Rendell’s plan, tolls would increase on the Pennsylvania Turnpike by 3 percent per year after an initial 25-percent increase. If or when I-80 becomes a toll road, costs for a truck trip would be $308 roundtrip from east to west, increasing to $400 after 2009.

OOIDA is opposed to toll increases on the turnpike and new tolls on I-80, Nofziger said.

U.S. Rep. John E. Peterson, R-PA, made it known this week in a letter to the editor of the Centre Daily Times that Gov. Rendell “may have had it right the first time when he wanted to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike.”

Nofziger, who notified Land Line of Peterson’s letter, said that the Association position is clear.

“We do not support that statement, or any sentiments toward privatizing any existing public road, let alone one as significant as the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Nofziger said.

– By David Tanner, staff writer