Pennsylvania meetings draw opposition to tolls

| Wednesday, November 21, 2007

OOIDA members made their presence known during a series of eight public meetings this month regarding the proposed tolling of Interstate 80.

A Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman said sometimes four or more people sporting OOIDA logos attended to submit comments against the tolling proposal.

“We understand that this measure certainly would impact these individuals more so than some other motorist groups, and so it was good to see that they care enough about their industry – and our highways – to take the time to come out,” turnpike Spokesman Carl DeFebo told Land Line.

“Yes, their questions were pointed, and certainly they pulled no punches. But in the end, they did appreciate us being there to correct misinformation, to answer their questions and provide a forum for them to express concerns.”

If the first round of meetings is any indication, the Pennsylvania public is opposed to I-80 becoming a toll road in the Keystone State.

Transportation officials were not surprised by that.

“We expected that there was going to be opposition and concerns,” DeFebo said. “Predominantly, the people who come to these meetings are opposed.”

What does surprise the turnpike commission is the less-than-expected attendance at the meetings.

“We were hoping to have more people come to the meetings, to be perfectly frank,” DeFebo said. “We didn’t even get 1,000 people at eight public meetings.”

Attendance ranged between 50 and 250 people in meetings held in Clarion, Clearfield, Bellefonte, Dubois, Milton, White Haven, East Stroudsburg and Grove City, PA.

The public is invited to participate in a meeting called by U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-PA. It is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania Upper Campus, Bloomsburg, PA.

Turnpike officials are scheduled to make a presentation at 6:30 p.m.

The next official round of meetings is being scheduled for late winter or early spring 2008, DeFebo said.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the hired firm of McCormick Taylor will upload public comments received at the meetings to the project Web site, www.paturnpike.com/I80.

The commission is also preparing to file a “Phase 2” application to the Federal Highway Administration in an effort to obtain tolling authority for the interstate.

DeFebo said the application filed Oct. 14 by the turnpike commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was considered a “Phase 1” application to obtain conditional tolling authority.

DeFebo said the “Phase 2” application will include all of the public comments, a proposal for the placement of up to 10 toll booths on the 311-mile route and a pending traffic study that has not yet been completed.

Officials will continue to collect public comments throughout the process, either through the project Web site – click here to view it – or at the following mailing address:

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

Comments