Pa. I-80 tolling rejected

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has announced he will call the General Assembly together to address transportation funding after federal officials rejected the state’s application to toll Interstate 80.

Rendell spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo said the Federal Highway Administration rejected the state’s application because “their interpretation is that it would be using funds from tolls for other projects other than I-80,” such as transit projects.

The Legislature passed Act 44 in 2007, which called for I-80 tolling and additional revenue from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to provide $532 million per year for road and bridge repairs and $414 million per year for public transit agencies across the state.

Rendell had not announced a date for the Legislative session. “We’ll look at every option on the table.” the governor said. “This is a dire situation with significant consequences.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association applauded the news, as it has maintained Act 44 was flawed legislation and tolling I-80 represented double taxation. Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and American Trucking Associations supported the FHA decision because the Commonwealth’s request did not adhere to the criteria of the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program.

Rep. Rick Geist, Republican Chairman of the State House Transportation Committee, said he soon will introduce legislation that would require that the Turnpike Commission maintain its current level of funding for three more years.

Geist said the Commission’s fiscal year 2010 commitment to PennDOT under Act 44 is $500 million for road and bridge projects and $400 million to aid the transit agencies. However, in the absence of I-80 tolling, that annual commitment drops to a fixed $450 million per year starting July 1.

Geist supports soon-to-be-introduced legislation in the House that would mandate that the Turnpike Commission maintain its current level of funding over the next three years.
He has urged leaders to revisit the governor’s Transportation Funding and Reform Commission’s 2006 report, which recommended use of public-private partnerships to meet infrastructure funding needs. He is again sponsoring HB1510 that would allow Pennsylvania to enter into public-private partnerships.

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Wyoming has studied tolling its section of I-80. This year, its Senate passed a bill that would have allowed the state to pursue tolling, but the legislation died in the House.

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