Pennsylvania motor carriers prefer tax increase to tolling I-80

| 3/13/2008

The Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association opposes measures to toll Interstate 80 and lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors, an official said Tuesday, March 10.

PMTA President Jim Runk told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio that the organization’s board of directors would rather support increases to the fuel tax than endorse tolls on I-80 or an equally controversial proposal by Gov. Ed Rendell to lease the turnpike.

“Our board thought long and hard about recommendations like this, but they generally agree that the fairest way to ensure that our roads and bridges are kept up to date and safe is through either lifting the cap on the wholesale cost of fuel or on a fuel tax increase,” Runk said.

“We think everybody paying their fair share is a better way to go than trying to establish another tax, which is a toll, and create problems in one portion of the state against another portion of the state. This way, everybody pays their fair share for use.”

In principle, officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say fuel taxes are preferable to excessive tolling and private control of infrastructure, but a tax increase does not address the real problem.

“Taxes over tolls is the preferred route, but we’re not there yet,” OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Representative Mike Joyce told Land Line. “Before we leap to a tax increase, we want to see the people in Harrisburg step up. That system needs to be fixed before truckers and highway users are asked to consider (paying) more.”

Joyce points out that Pennsylvania is in elite company with the amount of taxes collected on diesel. Diesel prices there include a total of 63.6 cents per gallon in federal, state and local taxes.

Only California, Indiana, Illinois and New York have higher totals according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Joyce said he commends the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association for taking a stand against excessive tolling, but said PMTA officials remained silent on these issues when I-80 tolls were the talk of the town in Harrisburg.

Gov. Rendell signed the act to initiate tolling proposals for I-80 in July 2007.

“We’re intrigued why we haven’t heard more from PMTA during the debate on I-80,” Joyce said.

“Converting I-80 to a toll road is going to have a substantial effect on the trucking community whether you’re big or small.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer