Report: I-80 tolls would hurt Pennsylvania economy

| 10/7/2009

A coalition concerned about tolling I-80 is set to publish a report to show how tolls on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania would affect the state’s economy.

The report, titled “I-80 Tolling Impact Study,” has caught the attention of highway users, including OOIDA as well as local, state and federal lawmakers.

Written by Tracy Miller, an associate professor of economics at Grove City College, the report was prepared for and funded by the No Tolls on I-80 Coalition, consisting of chambers of commerce and other groups in the I-80 corridor.

The report examines the consequences of the state law known as Act 44. It was Act 44 that empowered state transportation officials in 2007 to pursue tolls on I-80, but so far, the federal government has not accepted the state’s application.

The report will be released Monday, Oct. 12, during two public events featuring members of Congress and state lawmakers as guest speakers.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-PA, will address the first coalition event at 11 a.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites at Exit 173 in Lamar, PA.

The second rollout event is planned for 3:30 p.m. at Grove City College, Carnegie Hall, at Exit 24 in Grove City, PA, and will feature U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-PA, as guest speaker.

Those wishing to attend the event Monday in Lamar are asked to call Clinton County Economic Development Partnership at 570-748-5782.

For the Grove City event, contact Elaine Morris at the Penn-Northwest Development Corp., 724-662-3705 Ext. 1584, emorris@penn-northwest.com.

If I-80 were to be tolled, truckers and highway users would be paying twice to use a roadway they’ve already paid for through fuel taxes and other user fees, and that has the leadership of OOIDA urging Association members and all truckers to get involved.

“It’s more important now than it ever has been to call your elected state representative and members of Congress to voice your strong opposition to converting I-80 into a toll road,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce told Land Line.

“Economic conditions in the Commonwealth and in our nation have gotten no better in the past several months, and tolling I-80 will only create another enormous burden on small businesses trying to compete in our national and global marketplace. It’s critical to have your voice heard now on this extremely important issue.”

Coalition member Brad Ehrhart, executive director of Clarion County Economic Development, said the report will examine arguments that state officials used to justify tolling I-80 “in light of economic theory and evidence.”

The report will also show data on the various costs that will result, and who will bear those costs, he said.

“We’re trying to show not only the impact in the region, but in the whole state,” Ehrhart told Land Line.

Coalition President Maria Culp spent 20 years in trucking and logistics before becoming president and CEO of the Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.

“I think a lot of people have seen this as an issue of rural versus metropolitan, but this is truly an issue that affects every person in this state, and it’s going to have a negative effect on the commonwealth as a whole,” Culp told Land Line.

She said companies operating on razor thin margins can easily go bankrupt if their delivery routes or distribution chains are changed or disrupted.

– By David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com