HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A judge has ordered a temporary halt to Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to toll as many as nine major interstate bridges in Pennsylvania, siding Wednesday with Cumberland County and a handful of municipalities that are challenging the process as both illegal and unconstitutional.
Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler ordered the halt, saying that the state Department of Transportation must stop all studies, right-of-way acquisitions, construction or work under any contracts, and put off any planned hearings, meetings or spending.
The lawsuit had been filed by Cumberland County and seven municipalities.
An agency spokesperson only said it was reviewing the decision. PennDOT could appeal the preliminary injunction to the state Supreme Court.
In the lawsuit filed in March, lawyers for the county and municipalities argued both that the process followed by PennDOT and the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board violated the 2012 law that created the board.
In part, they said that residents of the county and municipalities had not had a legitimate opportunity to be heard on one of the bridges that might be tolled — I-83′s South Bridge across the Susquehanna River — before the board gave PennDOT permission to pursue it.
The lawyers also argued that the law itself violated constitutional prohibitions against the Legislature delegating its taxation authority, in this case to the board.
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“I’m thrilled the court is taking action, and this is a good start,” said State Representative Jason Ortitay (R-Allegheny County). Earlier today, the full Commonwealth Court held a hearing on the lawsuit filed by Bridgeville Borough and South Fayette and Collier townships related to the I-79 bridge. While this injunction was issued in regard to a court case filed by Cumberland County and several municipalities against PennDOT related to the tolling of the I-83 bridge in Harrisburg, it applies to all nine bridges. The attorneys for our lawsuit assisted Cumberland County with its filing.”
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