OOIDA on the front lines of I-80 toll fight in Pennsylvania

| 12/14/2007

OOIDA’s relentless assault on the proposal in Pennsylvania to convert Interstate 80 into a toll road continued Friday, Dec. 14.

OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Associate Mike Joyce, a Pennsylvania native, drove 300 miles from Washington, DC, to Grove City, PA, to testify at a Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee hearing.

At this and other recent events, Joyce and OOIDA Associate Director of Government Affairs Melissa Theriault have made sure the Association’s position against interstate tolling is heard loud and clear in Pennsylvania and in Washington, DC.

“As has been seen time and again elsewhere, when tolls have been imposed on heavily traveled roadways, traffic will divert to other, often less safe roads,” Joyce stated Friday in his testimony. “I am very confident in saying that by tolling I-80, the Turnpike Commission will force highway users and truckers to utilize alternative routes that are not designed for the increased volume, and in our case weight of traffic.”

In today’s climate of high fuel prices – Pennsylvania has one of the highest diesel tax rates at 38.1 cents per gallon – truckers avoiding extra costs such as tolls do so out of survival, Joyce said.

“The tolls will impose a severe financial hardship on small business truckers who are already coping with narrow to non-existent profit margins,” he said.

Earlier this week, Joyce hand-delivered a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation to urge Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Federal Highway Administration Administrator Richard Capka to deny the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s application to toll I-80.

Co-signing the letter with OOIDA were the American Highway Users Alliance, the American Trucking Association and Natso.

Rod Nofziger, OOIDA director of government affairs, said there’s no substitute for getting people like Joyce and Theriault to the front lines on behalf of truckers.

“We have dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and effort toward convincing public officials that tolling interstates is not the solution to highway funding problems,” Nofziger told Land Line.

“Unfortunately, those same folks are also hounded by the likes of road builders, state tolling authorities, private equity firms and the White House who are pushing tolls as the saving grace.”

Theriault helped OOIDA’s cause in September when she helped organize an anti-toll rally and press conference on the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol of Harrisburg.

The event helped truckers like OOIDA Member Dorsey Musselman of Bedford, PA, and others get some face time with local, state and federal lawmakers.

One of those lawmakers, U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, accepted an invitation to ride in a Kenworth owned by OOIDA Member Larry Smith of Harrisburg.

Smith told Land Line at the time that he appreciated the opportunity to have one-on-one discussion with Peterson.

Establishing dialogue with elected officials about important subjects like tolling is one of OOIDA’s core values and Nofziger says it pays off.

“If it was not for our regular, face-to-face interaction with those officials along with the activism of truckers across the country, Pennsylvania would be just one of many states imposing tolls on their interstates,” he said.

– By David Tanner, staff writer