Federal government rejects Turnpike proposal to toll I-80 drivers
HARRISBURG, PA — The Commonwealth Foundation applauds the decision of the Federal Highway Administration to reject the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s (PTC) proposal to toll Interstate 80. In response to the federal government’s ruling, lawmakers should aggressively pursue public-private partnerships and the proposed lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to help meet our transportation infrastructure needs.
Today, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) ruled that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) application does not meet requirements for approval under federal law. “This represents a victory for the motorists and taxpayers of Pennsylvania, reversing a plan to tax I-80 drivers, dramatically increasing the long-term debt of the state, and expanding the authority of the nefarious and scandal-laden Turnpike Commission,” said Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation.
“The rejection of I-80 tolling was not unexpected,” said Brouillette. “We communicated with Gov. Rendell and the General Assembly about Act 44’s failure to comply with federal law on multiple occasions before the legislation was passed and signed into law.”
Even with I-80 tolling off the table, Act 44 offers numerous pitfalls. The Turnpike Commission will continue to issue new debt, tied to both the Motor License Fund and higher Turnpike tolls. Act 44 does nothing to reform the Commission’s patronage or the no-bid contract process conducted by the agency. And Act 44, without I-80 tolling, provides only $450 million to the state each year in perpetuity. In contrast, the proposed Turnpike lease would provide $37 billion more in revenue to the state over the next 50 years.
“Following this rejection by the FHWA, legislators must seriously consider leasing the Turnpike, along with contracting out mass transit services and engaging in public-private partnerships on new construction,” noted Brouillette. “Not only does a Turnpike lease generate $37 billion more in revenue than Act 44, but it allows the state to retire rather than increase its debt, provides protection against future toll increases, and eliminates the corrupt Turnpike Commission for good.”
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The Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org) is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.