Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled last week that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plan to toll nine interstate bridges in Pennsylvania violates state law.
PennDOT’s announcement that I-79 will be tolled was met with opposition as South Fayette Township, Collier Township, and Bridgeville borough filed lawsuit against the government body arguing that tolling the bridges will burden its residents. On the other hand, PennDOT argues that the toll is necessary to fund the state’s transportation projects and cover repairs.
Ultimately, the Court sided with the communities on the ground that these communities were not consulted prior to the announcement of the plan to toll the bridges, a violation of Act 88.
The Almanac further reported:
Judge Ellen Ceisler wrote, “Based on the record before us, we are compelled to conclude that the (P3) board did not consult with affected persons before approving the initiative. Instead, DOT purported to do so afterward once specific bridges were announced. This is inconsistent with Act 88’s procedural framework…”
The decision also states that the P3 board “essentially approved a multibillion-dollar transportation plan based on what was essentially a four-page PowerPoint recommendation from DOT that failed to delineate which, or how many, pieces of public infrastructure the initiative would affect.”
If the plan had come to fruition, the I-79 bridge and the eight other bridges would have been tolled through a public-private partnership. Private contractors would have handled design and construction chores and been paid through tolls that would have been collected from drivers. One additional lane would have also been added in each direction near the I-79 bridge.
State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Cecil, who spearheaded opposition to the tolling plan, said PennDOT “needs to sit down and work with the General Assembly to come up with a comprehensive plan that addresses transportation needs without creating an undue burden on the commonwealth’s residents.”