Well, look who’s talking about toll diversion

By David Tanner, associate editor

The New York Times recently asked a panel of contributors if toll revenue should remain with a roadway on which it is collected or be diverted to other programs including public transit. One of the panelists, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, gave the most surprising answer of the bunch.

Believe it or not, Rendell says he is against the diversion of toll revenue for public transit.

“No, money from drivers’ tolls should not subsidize other costs, like mass transit,” he stated in response to The Times’ question.

“Public transportation is so important to our nation’s economy that it must be the recipient of its own dedicated funding,” Rendell added.

If memory serves, and in this case we have a pretty good one, it was then-Gov. Rendell who signed the controversial Act 44 into law in 2007. That’s the law that requires the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to pay the state DOT a sum of $450 million a year from its toll coffers to be used for other projects.

And if you haven’t guessed, Act 44-supported projects include mass transit in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Oh, and memory serves to point out that Rendell is a former mayor of Philadelphia.

Any warm-up we may have felt toward Rendell on his apparent change-of-heart on toll diversion gets iced immediately in the second full paragraph of his contribution to The Times. He goes on to say that tolling is vital and that Congress should consider lifting current restrictions on tolling interstates, including current toll-free routes. That’s more like the Ed Rendell we know. LL

Editor’s note: The question of toll diversion is timely. The New York State Thruway Authority has proposed a 45 percent toll increase for truckers, and the agency is bound by law to subsidize other projects including the state’s canal system. See Page 40 for the latest.