Scrap I-80 toll plan, congressmen urge

| 5/5/2011

As if there weren’t enough nails in the coffin for I-80 tolls in Pennsylvania, four members of Congress from the Keystone State want the plan stricken from any further considerations for future funding.

House Republicans Glenn Thompson, Lou Barletta, Tom Marino and Mike Kelly sent a letter urging a governor-appointed Transportation Funding Commission to take I-80 tolls off the table as the committee works on ways to close the state’s estimated $3.5 billion funding gap for transportation.

“Tolling Interstate 80 will do nothing more than cripple Pennsylvania in an already ailing economy,” the congressmen stated.

“Moving forward, we respectfully request that you remove I-80 tolling from the TFC agenda and focus on more realistic and sustainable means of funding the Commonwealth’s roads and bridges.”

The commission is working on its recommendations to Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers on finding at least $2.5 billion in new funding. The commission’s chairman, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, has already ruled out increasing the fuel tax as well as the possibility of leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors.

So far, I-80 tolls are not completely dead despite a total of three rejections by two presidential administrations since 2007.

A state law known as Act 44 of 2007 authorized the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to assume control of I-80 and apply for federal permission to convert it to a toll road. Under Act 44, the Turnpike Commission would also pay proceeds to the state DOT to fund other transportation programs, including mass transit in major cities.

The Obama and Bush administrations have denied the application because Pennsylvania could not guarantee that 100 percent of toll revenue would stay with I-80. That condition must be met under federal pilot programs that permit a limited use of tolls on interstates.

OOIDA opposes any attempt to convert a tax-funded roadway into a toll road, saying it would amount to double taxation for the user. Truckers already pay taxes on miles traveled in a given state, and they oppose the diversion of those dollars for non-highway programs.

OOIDA leadership commends the members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation for working to keep I-80 toll free.