The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI), of which NATSO is a founding member, on May 17 filed public comments regarding the Environmental Assessment for two bridge tolling projects in Pennsylvania.
PennDOT has proposed implementing tolls on bridges in nine counties that carry Interstates 78, 79, 80, 81, 83 and 95. PennDOT is currently accepting comments on the Environmental Assessments of I-80 bridge tolling at Canoe Creek and North Fork.
ATFI urged the Governor, General Assembly and Pennsylvania’s Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) Board to reject all efforts to expand tolling on existing interstates arguing that poorly conceived infrastructure-funding mechanisms can be counterproductive, effecting unintended and detrimental impacts on transportation networks, economies, local communities, and low-income populations.
Specifically, ATFI said that tolls will divert traffic onto secondary roads, placing undue burdens on alternative infrastructure while at the same time harming businesses in and around the project area, placing businesses at a competitive dis-advantage.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the North Fork bridges are located just under 5 miles west of a designated Environmental Justice Area, defined as “any census tract where 20 percent or more individuals live at or below the federal poverty line, and/or 30 percent or more of the population identifies as a non-white minority, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the federal guidelines for poverty.” The implementation of tolls could make driving on the North Fork bridges simply unaffordable for low-income families and members of marginalized communities.
PennDOT recently changed plans to toll both lanes of an I-78 bridge amid community pushback and is now only seeking to toll Westbound lanes.
In 2021, NATSO member Onvo submitted a letter to the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee opposing the bridge tolls in advance of a Committee hearing.
In its letter, Onvo said, “It cannot be overstated how negatively PennDOT’s Major Bridge P-3 program would hurt our company.” If PennDOT implements the bridge tolls, Onvo estimates that business will decline as much as 50 percent or more as customers divert onto non-tolled routes.
ATFI also testified at a field hearing in 2021 hosted by U.S. Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in Clarion, Pennsylvania, to examine PennDOT’s P3 Major Bridge Tolling Proposals.
The Alliance will continue to engage in opposing the Pennsylvania Bridge tolls. Comment periods for the following bridges are currently open:
- I-80 Over Lehigh River (comments received until June 2)
- I-80 Nescopeck Creek (comments received until May 27)
- I-78 Lenhartsville (comments received until June 3)
- I-83 South Bridge (comments received until June 9)
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