The Federal Highway Administration vetoed the Commonwealth’s plan to put tolls on Interstate 80 to help fill the potholes in PennDOT’s budget. Since then, ideas on how to accomplish that feat in a different manner have been flying fast and furious. Any plan will mean drivers will pay more. The task of finding $472 million was taken up by three state representatives: Bill Kortz of Allegheny County, Michael O’Brien of Philadelphia, and Scott Conklin of Centre County. Their idea? Tolls! What a welcome to Pennsylvania for drivers.
Their idea is officially called Special Session House Bill 2 or “Gateway Tolling for Transportation Independence Today.” It would have toll plazas constructed at the state lines on Interstates 78, 79, 80, 81, 84, 90, and 95. Traffic entering and exiting would be charged anywhere between $1 for passenger vehicles to $5 for trucks. Residents near the borders could buy a book of tickets at a reduced price to give them a cheaper toll. However, trucking companies based within Pennsylvania would be entirely exempt from paying. The toll booths would be manned by PennDOT, not PTC, employees. They would offer coin-drop baskets as well as E-ZPass gantries equipped with video cameras to capture violator’s license plates who would receive a bill in the mail.
These tolls would basically be a “user fee” paid by those who drive said Interstates, for maintenance of said Interstate. Tolling currently free Interstates whose construction was funded 90% by the federal government is allowed to provide for maintenance, and only maintenance. The plan to toll Interstate 80 would have siphoned money off for other transportation-related projects, which is not allowed. Representative Coklin estimates that between $235 million and $300 million a year could be raised for the Department of Transportation.
The proposal faces two roadblocks: passage by the special session of the Legislature and a stamp of approval from the Federal Highway Administration. Since the proposal would need their approval, the process for implementation could take several years. Therefore, the idea might not provide immediate results.
So “Welcome to Pennsylvania”…for free…for now.
New Plan to Toll Roads Proposed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette