PennDOT announces bridges being considered for new tolls
February 22, 2021
After revealing it is considering tolls on bridges, Pennsylvania has now announced which bridges are being considered for its PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative.
In November, PennDOT announced that it received permission to launch the Major Bridge P3 Initiative, which allows the state to install tolls on major bridges that are in need of repairs. Now, Pennsylvania knows which bridges are eligible for a future toll:
- I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project (Berks County).
- I-79 Widening, Bridges and Bridgeville Interchange Reconfiguration (Allegheny County).
- I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges (Clarion County).
- I-80 Nescopeck Creek Bridges (Luzerne County).
- I-80 North Fork Bridges Project (Jefferson County).
- I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge Project (Luzerne and Carbon counties).
- I-81 Susquehanna Project (Susquehanna County).
- I-83 South Bridge Project (Dauphin County).
- I-95 Girard Point Bridge Improvement Project (Philadelphia County).
According to PennDOT, the above bridges are of “substantial size that warrant timely attention and would require significant funds to rehabilitate or replace.” Those bridges are also more likely to have construction begin in two to four years. PennDOT says it made sure bridges were geographically spread out to avoid focusing on one region of the state.
“Our reliance on funding models from the last century leaves us especially vulnerable to fund losses stemming from volatile economic conditions and the increasing transition to alternative-fuel or electric vehicles,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said in a statement. “This initiative will help us make much-needed improvements without compromising the routine projects our communities and industry partners rely on.”
The state still has to go through a variety of studies and other procedures before moving forward with the Major Bridge P3 Initiative.
Currently, PennDOT is conducting an alternative funding Planning and Environmental Linkages study to identify near- and long-term funding solutions for the overall transportation system. Already, the study has found bridge tolls to be a viable near-term solution. That finding led to the Major Bridge P3 Initiative announced in November.
PennDOT has stated that bridge tolling will be all electronic and use E-ZPass and license plate billing for collection. Toll revenue will go back to the bridge being tolled to pay for construction, maintenance and operation of the bridge. By implementing tolls, PennDOT says it could reconstruct or replace the bridges without dipping into funds allocated for current projects, opening up that funding up for other roadways needs.
According to PennDOT documents, the department has an annual funding gap of more than $8 billion. Part of the gap is due to decreasing fuel tax revenue as vehicles become more fuel efficient. Nearly three quarters of highway and bridge funding in the state is generated through fuel taxes, according to PennDOT. Significantly reduced travel as a result of the pandemic has exacerbated that revenue stream shortfall.
“While COVID-19 certainly hasn’t helped, funding for interstate and expressway bridges has been eroding for decades due to increasing fuel efficiency, inflation, and changes in travel, and those needs grow every year,” PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell said.
More tolls for the Major Bridge P3 Initiatve do not need the approval of the state legislature. Act 88 of 2012 established the Public Private Transportation Partnership Board, which consists of the secretary of transportation, secretary of the budget, four General Assembly-appointed members, and one governor-appointed member. Federal law allows tolling on bridges that are replaced or reconstructed.
More information about the initiative can be found at PennDOT.gov/funding. LL