OOIDA drives home anti-toll position at I-80 symposium

| 11/30/2007

OOIDA’s position opposing interstate tolling was well received at the “Perspectives on I-80 Symposium,” Friday, Nov. 30, in Clarion, PA.

The Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry brought together toll opponents, elected officials, business leaders and representatives from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to discuss what was on everybody’s mind: the proposed conversion of Interstate 80 into a toll road.

OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Representative Mike Joyce was among the presenters on the Community Perspectives Panel, one of four panels that discussed various issues.

“Mike did an excellent job. He got a lot of nods and a round of applause at the end,” said Melissa Theriault, OOIDA associate director of government affairs.

Joyce discussed how “tolls” is another word for “taxes” and that there are no free roads. He discussed how truckers are already paying into the system and should not be taxed twice to run on the interstate.

Much of the discussion by the Community Perspectives Panel, which included Clarion city and county officials as well as representatives from Natso – the national association of truck stop and travel plaza owners – was about diversion of traffic onto local roads.

Clarion Chamber Spokeswoman Emily Gill said the highlight of the event was the attendance.

“We had about 200 people, at least, there,” said Emily Gill, a spokeswoman for the chamber group. “It went a little long, but there was some really good discussion.”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Joseph Brimmeier was part of the Legislatives Perspectives Panel. Also on that panel were interstate tolling opponent U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, and several state representatives including Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Allegheny, who introduced the “Act 44,” legislation that included language to convert I-80 into a toll road.

“People had tough questions, and they really pushed the Turnpike Commission,” Gill said.

As part of Act 44, the turnpike commission signed a lease in mid-October to take operational control of I-80 from PennDOT with the intention of converting the state’s 311-mile portion of the interstate into a toll road.

Gov. Ed Rendell signed the enabling legislation in July.

Tolling authority for the interstate, however, is still a pending issue. The turnpike commission has applied to the Federal Highway Administration for such authority, but so far it is not a done deal.

– By David Tanner, staff writer