Pa. Republican lawmakers try to put the brakes on interstate bridge toll plans

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Republican lawmakers are balking at the Wolf administration’s attempt to toll nine bridges across Pennsylvania. They say PennDOT doesn’t have the power.

But a 2012 law passed by GOP lawmakers and signed by Governor Corbett gives it the authority to toll and now republicans want a do-over.

The I-83 bridge near Harrisburg has no red lights but lots of red ink. PennDOT proposes a fix between six and $800 million.

To pay such repairs, it and eight other bridges across the Commonwealth would be tolled, a dollar or two each way.

Republicans are throwing a roadblock.

Senator Scott Hutchinson (R) said, “Pennsylvanians already pay the second highest gas tax in America.”

“We can’t let this happen to the people who are trying so desperately to get back on their feet after a very difficult year,” Republican Senator Mike Regan added.

Late last year the board of the Public-Private Partnership unanimously approved the tolling plan. Senator Wayne Langerholc’s (R) bill would require that board to get legislative sign-off.

Langerholc said, “this isn’t how the general assembly envisioned the P3 program and I firmly believe PennDOT doesn’t have the legal authority to proceed.”

However, Act 88 of 2012 gave the P3 board the power to toll. Lots of republicans supported it despite warnings that lawmakers were giving non-elected officials taxing power.

Democratic Senator Mike Carroll voted no then but is on the P3 board now.

“For those who are lamenting the fact that we have PennDOT tolling before us, look in the mirror,” Carroll said.

PennDOT estimates its needs $15 billion a year to fix roads and bridges. It gets less than seven.

Local Government Committee Chair Senator Cris Dush (R) said, “if that math is true that math doesn’t work.”

But Dush says PennDOT is not a good fiscal steward and cryptically added, “I think you’re gonna find from the treasurer’s office that PennDOT is not in the financial straits that it’s claiming.”

But Langerholc chairs the transportation committee. When pressed, conceded roads and bridges aren’t fixing themselves.

“There’s a dire need. There’s no revenue there. We need to find a revenue stream for that, yes,” Langerholc said.

However, Pennsylvanians won’t be paying tolls anytime soon. The earliest these projects could start is 2023.

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