Stakeholders oppose Pennsylvania bridge tolls during House hearing

March 25, 2021

Tyson Fisher

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About a month after the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced which bridges are being considered for tolls for its Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative, stakeholders are sounding the alarm to state lawmakers.

During a state House Transportation Committee meeting on March 24, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors expressed their opposition to PennDOT’s Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative. In February, PennDOT announced nine bridges that are eligible to be tolled.

Robert Latham, executive vice president of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, gave testimony during the meeting. Generally speaking, the association supports tolls. In fact, it believes Congress should eliminate the federal ban on tolling existing portions of the interstate highways. However, Latham said the association cannot get behind the Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative as PennDOT has no legal authority under state law to impose tolls without legislation. Latham also raised concerns over public-private partnerships.

“Public-private partnerships are misrepresented as low-cost new funding for highway projects that create innovative solutions and add substantial work for local engineering and construction firms,” Latham said in submitted testimony. “However, upfront costs, the high cost of private financing, and owner oversight costs can drive the cost of P3 delivery much higher than municipal bond-financed, design-build project delivery.”

Rebecca Oyler, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, pointed out that Pennsylvania is already one of the most expensive states in the country in which to operate a truck. Launching the Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative will only further drive up those costs.

“We believe that PennDOT’s P3 Bridge Tolling strategy is the wrong approach to funding highways and keeping Pennsylvania’s infrastructure sound,” Oyler said in submitted testimony. “This proposal will further contribute to making Pennsylvania’s trucking industry uncompetitive and set it up for failure. Worse, it will create winners and losers, depending on which side of the bridge a business is located.”

The hearing comes after several state lawmakers, including Senate Transportation Chairman Wayne Langerholc, said they wanted to put a stop to the Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative. The Senate Transportation Committee voted 9-4 to advance a bill to halt the current bridge toll plans. You can read more about that here.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has also opposed the Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative. OOIDA Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek said lawmakers need to correct their mistakes.

“Pennsylvania’s track record on tolling is pathetic,” Matousek said. “The legislature basically gave unelected officials and political appointees blanket authority to toll whatever they want, and that’s what’s happening right now. State lawmakers created this mess and if their opposition is truly more than just political posturing, they’ll do what’s necessary to fix it.” LL

Land Line Now’s Terry Scruton contributed to this report.

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.