Pennsylvania bill would repeal I-80 tolling provision

| 10/2/2007

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker wants to void the state’s transportation package approved this summer that includes a provision to toll Interstate 80 and would provide $800 million annually for roads, bridges and transit in the state.

Rep. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango, has introduced legislation – HB1878 – that would repeal the transportation bill, which was signed into law in July.

Advocates for repealing the legislation say the purpose of tolling I-80 is not to support, operate, maintain or benefit the roadway. It is intended to pay for mass transit in other parts of the state, they say.

Other opponents say that tolling the interstate would lead to traffic diverting onto alternate routes. The result would be more congestion, traffic accidents, and road repairs.

The trucking industry also is opposed to charging freeway users to travel the 311-mile route.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said truckers already pay their fair share to use the nation’s roadways. Tolling existing interstates amounts to double taxation for truckers, he said.

The I-80 tolling legislation also has resulted in action being taken in Washington, DC, to quash the effort. U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, authored and introduced an I-80 amendment to the House fiscal year 2008 transportation appropriations bill that would prohibit federal funds from being used to establish or collect tolls on the interstate.

Rendell’s office issued a statement that said the decision to pursue putting tolls on I-80 was a compromise suggested by state lawmakers.

Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Rendell, said the governor signed the bill as a way to address the state’s transportation funding crisis, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. If the law is repealed alternative funding sources must be developed.

One option being touted by Rendell for consideration is to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Hutchinson’s effort to nix the plan to toll I-80 could be brought up for consideration this fall. All legislation must advance through the House and Senate before the session is scheduled to wrap up by the end of November.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor