Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No Tolls For Interstate 80 Measure Passes

No Tolls For Interstate 80 Measure Passes

WASHINGTON, DC – Governor Rendell’s proposal to add tolls to Interstate 80 have been quashed as the U.S. House approved a measure that would block tolling of the road. The measure was introduced by Congressmen John Peterson and Phil English. The tolling of I-80 was part of the negotiated plan between Gov. Ed Rendell and state legislators as part of the state budget agreement. Money from placing tolls on the northern Pennsylvania east to west corridor was to go for transportation funding.

Source: 7/25/07


Toll plan hits bump in the road


Wednesday, July 25, 2007



Of Our Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON - A new roadblock emerged last night to Pennsylvania's plan to charge tolls on Interstate 80.


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 Pennsylvania, at the expense of their rural districts, tourists and businesses who would pay the tolls.


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 Pennsylvania portion of the highway.


"The governor opposes Congressman Peterson's efforts to cut transportation funding in Pennsylvania," Rendell spokesman Doug Rohanna said last night. "It's interesting to note that Congress continues to reduce transportation funding for states while at the same time some members are restricting or blocking efforts of states to address the transportation crisis themselves."


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, R-York County.


"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.


Pennsylvania could still use state money to establish and collect tolls if the Peterson-English amendment becomes law, but English is exploring ways to prevent that.


"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 Harrisburg raids western Pennsylvania travelers and picks truckers' pockets to prop up Philadelphia's mass transit system."


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





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