Senator Gordner Urges the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to Reject I-80 Tolling

(HARRISBURG) – – State Senator John R. Gordner (R-27) and nine of his colleagues recently called on U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to reject the proposed tolling of Interstate 80.

“We write as members of the Pennsylvania Senate to strongly oppose the conversion of Interstate 80 into a toll road,” Sen. Gordner wrote in the letter to Secretary LaHood. “We are deeply concerned about the significant economic consequences such a conversion will have on our state’s businesses and residents as well as the considerable amount of debt the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will incur if this proposal is approved.”

In addition to Senator Gordner, the Senators who signed the letter to Secretary LaHood include: Lisa Baker (R-20), Lisa Boscola (D-18), Jake Corman (R-34), John Eichelberger (R-30), Mike Folmer (R-48), Jeffrey Piccola (R-15), Bob Robbins (R-50), Mary Jo White (R-21), and Gene Yaw (R-23).

“I voted against Act 44 when it came before the Senate and I remain strongly opposed to this proposal for a number of reasons. There are numerous financial, legal and quality of life issues that remain unresolved even as this proposal moves forward,” Sen. Gordner said. “Our letter to Secretary LaHood clearly states our concerns about this plan and the impact it would have on our residents and our regional economy.”

The lawmakers seek to inform the Obama Administration of the reasons why the Bush Administration previously rejected the application to toll I-80 on September 11, 2008.  Among the concerns cited by the Senators are:

  • The swift method by which Act 44 was passed and is now being implemented undermines the process envisioned by the federal government in its pilot Interstate tolling program which calls for an analysis of “the interests of local, regional, and interstate travelers.”
  • The proposal to toll Interstate 80 fails to meet any of three criteria required by the federal government to institute tolls on interstate highways.  Those three criteria include traffic congestion relief, reduction of vehicle emissions or the need to construct additional road infrastructure.
  • A 2005 study by the state Department of Transportation concluded that tolling Interstate 80 was not a viable option to fund the state’s transportation needs. The resubmitted tolling application confirms this by the massive amount of debt obligation required under the plan.

The lawmakers said the plan would also have a dramatic and devastating effect on many Pennsylvania businesses. Citing Weis Markets with its major distribution center and 57 stores along the I-80 corridor, the Senators wrote: “The company has indicated that tolling will double their current operating costs, likely making further expansion or investment in those areas cost prohibitive.”

Geisinger Health System, based in Montour County, would see a $4 million increase in operational costs through tolling without any direct benefit to the organization’s mission of providing health care.  “At a time when the nation is focused on the debate over health care reform,” the Senators commented, “it would be counterproductive to increase Geisinger’s operational costs by $4 million annually when President Barack Obama recently stated, ‘We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high quality at costs below average.'”

A copy of the letter from the Senators to Secretary LaHood is available here.

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