(HARRISBURG) – State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) has joined nine of his colleagues from Pennsylvania in urging U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to reject a plan to toll Interstate 80.
In a letter to LaHood, Yaw and other members of the Pennsylvania legislative delegation expressed their strong opposition to the plan, saying it will have severe quality of life and economic consequences and is not a viable option to fund the state’s transportation needs.
In addition to Senator Yaw, 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 John Gordner (R-27).
“Tolling Interstate 80 will hurt commuters who use the highway on a daily basis, it will have a devastating impact on local economies, and it is not in the best interest of our state,” Yaw said. “Opponents of this ludicrous funding stream have been saying for some time that it won’t fly, and we want the federal government to reject once and for all this unfair and ludicrous proposal.”
Yaw said that the Bush Administration previously rejected the application to toll I-80 on September 11, 2008, and is urging the Obama Administration to do the same, based on the following information:
- 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 noting the massive amount of debt obligation required under the plan.
Yaw 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.”
Yaw stressed that tolling Interstate 80 will not solve Pennsylvania’s transportation funding crisis, and will simply force drivers in his district pay more to subsidize projects in other areas of the state.
“Pennsylvania workers and businesses are struggling right now in this tight economy,” Yaw said. “It makes no sense for folks in this area to be targeted with higher tolls when the money will go to fund transit programs in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.”
Contact: Rita Zielonis