More on the I-80 Tolling Decision
There is a lot of commotion around the recent rejection of Pennsylvania’s application to toll I-80. So, just to recap: Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure in in bad shape. Despite PennDOT’s efforts, there has not been enough funding to deal with all of the commonwealth’s transportation needs.
Act 44 allowed the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) to borrow money against future toll revenue from two primary sources. Those two sources were increased tolls on the existing Pennsylvania toll roads, and future toll revenue from I-80 tolling.
A public-public partnership was created. The partnership was in the form of a lease agreement in which PTC would pay PennDOT $900 million/year. An article in the Inquirer helps to explain some of the particulars. If tolling were approved, that amount would increase by 2.5% for every year starting with the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. PTC would collect the tolls and PennDOT would have revenue to use for repairs and projects around the state. Now that tolling has been denied, PTC will only pay PennDOT $450 million/year. This means that we will have to find another way to make up this large difference in essential transportation funds.
And, if this void in funding isn’t bad enough, PTC already borrowed more than $2 Billion against that future toll revenue– much of which is now nonexistent. The existing tolled roads in the commonwealth have already seen toll increases over the past year and the application rejection may mean more of the same.
Despite the seemingly devestating effects of this plan’s rejection, not everyone thinks that it is a bad thing. In fact, many people in the state are celebrating the decision. Residents along the I-80 corridor, truck drivers/trucking companies, the Chambers of Commerce in the northern part of the state, and other stakeholders thought that tolling would mean increased commute time, diverted and dangerous truck traffic, business leaving the area, and unfair double taxation. You can find more information on this at the No Toll I-80 Coalition website.
This article in the Morning Call does a good job of explaining the situation and providing a variety of points of view. In fact, on the Morning Call’s Capital Ideas Blog, they have provided an overview of the various media that have covered this issue. On the same blog, you can also read the official PennDOT press release.
So, what are the other options moving forward? Some reports are talking about the possibility of increasing the gas tax and/or car registration fees. According to this Yahoo News article, the Governor mentioned the possibility of a tax on oil companies or on cigars and smokeless tobacco. And of course leasing the turnpike is an option as well.
Which direction should we be heading in now? How might this decision affect the future of transit in Pennsylvania? This decision has implications for transportation issues everywhere in the state, including the Lehigh Valley. This decision adds a new consideration for our upcoming transportation discussion on April 19th, at Hotel Bethlehem. We will be focused on the future of transporation in the Lehigh Valley. Check out event details and sign up on our website.