Pennsylvanians oppose tolling I-80 at public meetings

| Thursday, November 08, 2007

Approximately 250 people attended one meeting and about 80 attended another as the first round of public meetings got under way in early November to inform Pennsylvanians about the possible conversion of I-80 into a toll road.

Many of those who spoke at the first two meetings, Wednesday, Nov. 7, in Clarion and Clearfield, PA, held by transportation officials and a hired consulting firm, were angry at state officials for proposing tolls on Interstate 80.

The state Legislature approved a measure in July to pass control of I-80 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for the purpose of tolling the interstate.

“The questions people were asking was mainly about what other alternatives the legislature had looked at,” Melissa Theriault, OOIDA Associate Director of Government Affairs, told Land Line.

She attended the meeting in Clearfield, accompanied by staff from the office of U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-PA.

“Some of them talked about diversion of traffic, and some people asked about the (proposed) privatization of the turnpike,” Theriault said.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission hired a consulting firm, McCormick Taylor, Inc., to collect the public comments.

“There were people there from PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, but they didn’t really answer any questions or talk to people,” Theriault said.

Theriault related the story of one trucker who has calculated that his tolls in 10 years will be $219 per round trip to and from his regular destination.

“He makes on average 85 cents per mile per load,” Theriault said. “If he’s making 85 cents a mile, and he pays 50 cents a mile in tolls, he’s not going to take I-80.”

Officials will conduct six more meetings in November and begin another round in about six months.

Theriault said the meetings are a good way for truckers and the public to speak their minds on the issue of interstate tolling.

“They don’t have a lot of answers for you, but they are listening to people’s thoughts,” she said. “Also, since you have people there from all kinds of perspectives, you get to hear all the different reasons adding to the rhetoric.”

Each of the remaining meetings will last from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be conducted in an open-house format. The public can view display materials and discuss the proposal one-on-one with project staff. Formal presentations by transportation officials are scheduled at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at each meeting.

Remaining dates and locations are as follows:

  • Thursday, Nov. 8, Bellefonte Area Middle School, 100 N. School St., Bellefonte, PA 16823
  • Thursday, Nov. 8, Dubois Country Club, 10 Lakeside Ave., Dubois, PA 15801
  • Nov. 12, Milton Area High School, 700 Mahoning St., Milton, PA 17847
  • Nov. 12, Mountain Laurel Resort, Rt. 940, White Haven, PA 18661
  • Nov. 19, Notre Dame High School, 60 Spagenburg Ave., East Stroudsburg, PA 18301
  • Nov. 19, Grove City College, 100 Campus Drive, Grove City, PA 16217

Additional meetings will be scheduled in the new year, a turnpike spokesman told Land Line.

Display materials from the public meetings are available online at www.paturnpike.com/I80 from Nov. 7 through Nov. 20.

People wishing to comment in writing can send comments to:

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
c/o Joe Hlivia
McCormick Taylor, Inc.
101 Innovation Boulevard
Suite 206
State College, PA 16803

– By David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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