No Tolls For Interstate 80 Measure Passes
Source: http://www.wdac.com/news.php 7/25/07
Toll plan hits bump in the road
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
BY BRETT LIEBERMAN
Only a week ago, state officials were touting their plan to generate as much as $946 million a year for the state's highways, bridges and mass transit needs as a solution for crumbling infrastructure and transit cuts
Yesterday, two Pennsylvania congressmen inserted a two-line sentence into the annual federal transportation funding bill that would prohibit using federal money to establish or collect tolls on I-80, which was part of the deal between Gov. Ed Rendell and state legislators that ended a two-week state budget stalemate.
The amendment offered by U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-State College, and Phil English, R-Erie, was added on a voice vote to the $104 billion appropriations bill approved 268-153 around 11:20 last night to fund the departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and other agencies' operations for the federal fiscal year that begins Sept. 1. The final funding legislation must be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee.
"The governor and state legislature's proposal, taking I-80 from PennDOT and giving it to the bloated Turnpike Commission to peppering tolls across rural Pennsylvania, was a terrible decision and would cause irreversible economic damage," Peterson said.
More miles of I-80, which crosses the state's northern tier, pass through his district than any other district.
Peterson and English criticized the toll plan as a bailout for big city mass transit systems, including SEPTA in southeastern
According to their staffs, English and Peterson acted without consulting state officials, responding to constituents' criticism of the toll plan.
"This is a federal government thing, this is federal dollars; we don't think it's necessary to reach out to anyone in the state," Peterson spokesman Travis Windle said.
Rendell aides, who appeared caught by surprise by the proposal, scrambled to assess how the measure might affect plans to erect as many as 10 toll plazas on the 311-mile
"The governor opposes Congressman Peterson's efforts to cut transportation funding in
In addition to charging tolls on I-80, the transportation package Rendell signed into law last week includes large toll hikes for Pennsylvania Turnpike users after legislators rejected Rendell's proposal to lease the Turnpike to private foreign operators for as much as $18 billion.
"It seems that it would have been more prudent of the governor to have received federal approval for that proposal before making it the basis for the transportation funding," said U.S. Rep. Todd Platts,
"They made a very large assumption that the federal government will approve tolling I-80," said Platts, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Advocates of the toll plan have touted a Federal Highway Administration letter saying that charging tolls on I-80 is possible.
A source close to the issue, though, predicted the Peterson-English amendment might be stripped from the bill during a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate.
"Tolling I-80 rolls up the welcome mat and tells visitors and customers of local businesses to go elsewhere," English said. "We are not going to stand by while
During a visit to the Shamokin area last week, House Transportation Committee chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., said he was not in favor of adding tolls to roads.
BRETT LIEBERMAN: 202-383-7833 or email@example.com