DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Dauphin County commissioners joined other local and state officials Wednesday in opposing a toll on the I-83 South Bridge in Harrisburg.

PennDOT is considering tolls on several bridges to pay for replacing or repairing them, but in a unanimous resolution, commissioners said this is the wrong move.

“Might be the most tone-deaf move of all time,” commissioner Mike Pries said.

PennDOT proposed the toll in 2021 to pay for replacing the bridge between Dauphin and Cumberland counties, a project that could cost $600 to $800 million. Officials said it would create congestion on other routes as people try and avoid the toll, and it could discourage people from crossing at all.

“The impact that tolling that bridge would have on our communities, on the economy, on the quality of life would just be devastating to have that tolling,” commissioner Chad Saylor said.

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Harrisburg city councilman Dave Madsen said, “We rely on that foot traffic to support our small businesses.”

Commissioners were joined in opposition by state and city officials, who said a toll is unfair to commuters already dealing with inflation and rising gas prices.

“They’re looking at something like this toll and saying, ‘I can’t make it work,'” Madsen said.

Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin County) said, “It’s inconceivable that we’re going to now require commuters to pay a toll just to get back and forth from and to work.”

PennDOT said a toll would be a steady source of funding. Right now, they rely heavily on gas tax revenue, and they said they are receiving $10 to $15 million less in revenue every month.

PennDOT’s response:

“In November of 2020, the P3 Board, which is comprised of representatives appointed by all four legislative caucuses, voted unanimously to task PennDOT with implementing bridge tolling throughout the state through the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (MBP3) initiative. The initiative can provide a dedicated source of revenue for infrastructure improvements, where the commonwealth currently has an annual gap of $8.1 billion for highways and bridges.  The commonwealth relies heavily on unreliable gas tax revenues and is currently seeing $10 million to $15 million less in revenue each month. The MBP3 initiative is a solution to address some critical bridges across the state and create significant savings over the life of the program while ensuring the vitality of a state’s transportation system and economy. 

The department understands the impact of tolling and would be interested in other thoughtful, obtainable solutions to address the commonwealth’s infrastructure and growing annual gap in funding.”

Alexis Campbell, PennDOT Press Secretary

Commissioners and state legislators recognized the need to replace the bridge but said a toll is the wrong approach.

“We’re not going to accept this proposal without exploring alternatives,” commissioner George P. Hartwick III said.

On Wednesday, Cumberland County commissioners also voted to join litigation opposing the toll.