According to Streetsblog Capitol Hill, Gov. Ed Rendell had scheduled a press conference on April 6 to go over the prospect of tolling the route, but reports were that the federal government denied the application. By not being able to toll I-80 the state could lose $450 million from its transportation budget.
Officials were hoping to use the additional funding for road and bridge maintenance as well as transit expansion. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) runs rail and bus service in the Philadelphia area, and is expecting to cut more than 25% of its capital budget if the tolling application did indeed fall through. To make up for the loss, SEPTA planned on raising fares.
Rendell has been pushing tolls on I-80 for more than a year. However, he failed to get support from his fellow lawmakers in Washington. Several met with the Federal Highway Administration to address their concerns back in December.
“The architects of Act 44 made an incredible and irresponsible assumption—that the federal government would allow the tolling of I-80,” said Pa. Rep. Rick Geist. “Now we see just how irresponsible that assumption was.”
Geist supports soon-to-be introduced legislation in the Pa. House that would mandate the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to maintain its current level of funding over the next three years rather than make cuts due to the rejection of the tolling application.
“The Turnpike Commission has been very proud of and confident in its financial commitment to the Commonwealth’s transportation system, so why not hold the Turnpike Commission to that commitment until we resolve this issue?” asked Geist.
Geist was a member of a nine-member transportation commission back in 2006 that made several funding recommendations, including the use of public-private partnerships.
“Private-public partnerships are not a panacea,” Geist added, “but they certainly are a viable tool in the toolbox to fix what has become a broken infrastructure.”