The “fairness” of tolling I-80

Here is my letter to the editor in the Intelligencer Journal

Your July 28 editorial, “No free way,” implies that tolling I-80 is somehow more “fair” than a Turnpike lease. Your definition of fairness seems bizarre.

Tolling I-80 would not mean lower tolls for Turnpike drivers. The Turnpike Commission promises to raise tolls 25 percent next year and three percent annually thereafter (in addition to tolling I-80). The Fitch bond rating service downgraded the Turnpike Commission’s rating, believing tolls will be dramatically higher. In contrast, a lease would cap tolls at a rate about equal to, likely less than, the Commission’s plan.

Is it fair to charge drivers on both roads more, without generating additional revenue or ensuring better service? Obviously, a lower toll on both roads is a better option.

You also misstate facts about I-80 tolling, claiming, “all of this money will be used for bridge and road repairs on I-80.” Actually, about 40 percent of I-80 tolls will fund other roads and bridges and mass transit.

Shifting to a toll system to fund transportation infrastructure might be a good move, but only with:

  • A reduction in the gas tax, which has been charged to construct and rehabilitate I-80. Tolls should replace our current tax system, not be in addition to what we currently pay.
  • Competitive bidding to ensure that motorists and taxpayers receive the best deal — in terms of state revenue and toll limits.

The backroom deal to give the inefficient and patronage-ridden Turnpike Commission authority to toll additional roads fleeces all Pennsylvania taxpayers and drivers.