Harrisburg – – Eleven state senators today wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to express continuing opposition to the proposal to toll Interstate Route 80. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are seeking federal approval to toll Interstate 80 as authorized by Act 44 of 2007, which all eleven senators opposed upon passage of the Act in July.
The senators expressed their serious concerns about the negative impact the proposal will have on residents and businesses in the Commonwealth and have asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to carefully consider those concerns as the Department reviews the Pennsylvania application.
Among the specific concerns cited by the Senators are:
- The tolling proposal will have overwhelming negative economic impact upon business and industry located along the I-80 corridor by greatly increasing transportation costs.
- The Turnpike Commission and the state Department of Transportation failed to sufficiently seek public input on the proposal prior to the passage of Act 44, despite claims in the application that a number of hearings were held in the spring of 2007.
- Act 44 received significant opposition in the General Assembly, passing by only an eleven vote margin in the Senate and only a 45 vote margin in the House of Representatives. The proposal has also generated significant opposition among the members of the state’s Congressional delegation.
- A 2005 study by the state Department of Transportation concluded that tolling Interstate 80 was not a viable option to fund the state’s transportation needs.
- The proposal to toll Interstate 80 fails to meet any of three criteria required by the federal government to institute tolls on interstate highways. Those three criteria include traffic congestion relief, reduction of vehicle emissions in non-attainment emission areas or the need to construct additional road infrastructure.
- While the Turnpike Commission did not seek comment prior to the passage of Act 44, it has conducted a series of hearings since the passage of the Act and has received overwhelming negative public input.
The senators further expressed concern that if the proposal receives approval despite not qualifying under current tolling criteria, other states will seek similar approval, seriously harming the free flow of goods and traffic across the country, endangering not only Pennsylvania’s economy, but the U.S. economy as well.
Contact: Brian Grove