Amendment to stop I-80 tolls dropped from legislation

| 11/12/2007

An amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation Appropriations legislation aimed at blocking the tolling of Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania did not make it into the final version that emerged from a conference committee.

U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, filed the amendment in the House in July to keep tolls from being implemented on I-80. Language in the Peterson amendment was similar to an amendment designed for Texas filed in the Senate by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX.

While the Hutchison amendment to ban interstate tolling in Texas made it into the final version of the transportation appropriations legislation, the Peterson version for Pennsylvania was cut.

Still, Peterson says the amendment shined light on an important issue.

“As a result of our efforts and the attention given to our July amendment, folks across the state are now aware of the grave economic ramifications that tolling I-80, at the highest rates in the country, will have on our entire commonwealth,” Peterson stated Friday on his Web site.

Peterson does not like the I-80 toll proposal included in state transportation legislation, known as Act 44, which was approved in July by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ed Rendell.

State transportation officials and the governor have been looking to increase revenue through tolling I-80 or leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors.

Following the terms set forth in Act 44, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation leased Interstate 80 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Oct. 14, and the two agencies applied for tolling authority for the interstate from the federal government.

Federal law prohibits a state from tolling interstates unless they are approved in one of six pilot programs overseen by the Federal Highway Administration. No existing interstate has been tolled to date, but some states and projects have been granted authority. Pennsylvania is not among them at this point.

– By David Tanner, staff writer