Tolling I-80 is a Recipe for Disaster

With a renewed interest in tolling Interstate 80, I find it necessary to reiterate several points of concern surrounding Act 44 and its implications on Pennsylvania’s economic future:

  • Act 44, as it currently stands, is in violation of federal law requiring that tolls on federal highways be used exclusively on the highway itself. The tolls collected from I-80 would be used for other transportation projects, including funding mass transit in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
  • In a November 2006 report, the Transportation Funding and Reform Commission recommended that “no additional funding should be provided for highways, bridges and transit unless a series of parallel actions are taken to reform funding structure and a number of transportation business practices.? Act 44 is designed to generate additional funds without putting the required reforms in place.
  • The notion that transportation is underfunded is merely a myth. PA’s spending on transportation has increased 121% from 1995-2009, more than triple the rate of inflation. Even before Act 44, highway spending had increased 90% in 2007 alone, facilitating one of the highest gasoline tax rates in the country.
  • Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law requires all public projects to pay state mandated wage rates, increasing the cost to taxpayers by as much as 30%. In fact, by not allowing the market to determine wage rates, taxpayers pay an additional $9 billion dollars annually to pay these union wages. By continuing this policy, true transportation reform remains unattainable.
  • Finally, Act 44 would place tolling I-80 in the hands of the notoriously corrupt and inefficient Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. It is no coincidence that State Sen. Vince Fumo, who was convicted on 137 counts of conspiracy and fraud, frequently used the PTC to spend “other people’s money?.” Giving the PTC another sweetheart deal is simply a recipe for disaster.

Letting private companies competitively bid on the rights to manage tolling is a safe and cost-efficient solution.