Lease opponents fail to offer all the facts

Here is my letter to the editor in the Post-Gazette (online only) on the oversight of key facts about Act 44 and a Turnpike Lease:

Your May 28 editorial “The Road Ahead,” calling the turnpike lease the “unacceptable” end of a Hobson’s choice, while Act 44 “sensible,” is riddled with missing facts and illogical turns.

You deride the proposed increase in turnpike tolls under a lease, yet fail to mention that tolls would be limited to equal to, or less than, what has already been planned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which has pledged to increase tolls 25 percent in 2009 and 3 percent every year thereafter — at a minimum. In other words, your editorial argues for higher tolls on turnpike drivers, as long as drivers on other roads pay more.

You also claim that I-80 drivers, particularly cross-state truckers, “get a free ride.” But this conveniently forgets that the state and federal gasoline taxes — which I-80 motorists have paid and will continue to pay — are what built and repaired I-80. It is for this reason that the federal government will be unlikely to allow tolling of I-80, at least as planned under Act 44
(i.e., with most of the revenue going to other roads and to mass transit, rather than back into I-80).

If the federal government should approve tolling of I-80, and state lawmakers want to pursue that, tolls should be offset by a reduction in fuel taxes and motorist fees. Furthermore, if I-80 or other roads are converted to toll roads, they also should be subject to competitive bidding, rather than turned over to the inefficient and corrupt turnpike commission, to ensure the best deal for motorists and taxpayers.