Interstate 80 Tolling Plans Permanently Halted by Court Order

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Plans to toll nine current bridges in Pennsylvania under the Department of Transportation’s Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative are permanently halted under a final order by the state’s Commonwealth Court, Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) and Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) said on Thursday.

(Photo by Dave Cyphert / ProPoint Media Photography.)

“The court has wisely agreed that its temporary order from earlier last month is the right interpretation of the law,” said Oberlander, who has been a staunch opponent to any form of tolling existing highways and structures. “The court took a look at the case before them and found that PennDOT has no authority to toll these bridges, including ones in Clarion and Jefferson counties, under current law. This is tremendous news for our area and for our future.”

“This decision is truly outstanding news for the residents and businesses of our region and all of Pennsylvania,” added Hutchinson. “All along, we have argued that this tolling initiative was a half-baked, illegal money-grab by PennDOT and the Wolf Administration, lacking in public transparency and legislative approval, and the courts have agreed.”

Specifically, the court ruled that PennDOT clearly violated the Public-Private Partnerships (P3) law when its P3 Board voted to toll interstate bridges it planned to repair or replace but did not name the specific ones. Three months later, in February 2021, PennDOT announced the list at the governor’s direction. According to Act 88 of 2012, the board must assess each project’s scope, framework, and impact on citizens and do a cost/benefit analysis before approving a project.

PennDOT could appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, costing even more taxpayer money.

Both agreed that maintaining our transportation infrastructure is vital, and the next steps must be to take a comprehensive look at current and future funding to ensure the safety of roads, bridges, and highways across the state.

The tolling was part of the Major Bridge Initiative, which was approved in November of 2020 by the Pennsylvania Public Private Partnership (P3) Board, to use the P3 delivery method for bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement.

Nine bridges in total on Interstate 80 were on the list to be tolled through the initiative, including the Canoe Creek Bridges in Clarion County and the North Fork Bridge in Jefferson County.

State leaders have expressed concern for a number of reasons, from traffic congestion and public safety, to increased costs to citizens and businesses, and the danger of tolling becoming universal on the interstates.

According to PennDOT, the project was in its final design as of April 2022. Construction was anticipated to begin between 2023 and 2025 with a three- to four-year construction period.

The I-80 Canoe Creek bridges are dual multi-span structures (one eastbound and one westbound) that were built in 1966, were extended in 1985, and underwent multiple retrofits for fatigue-induced cracking since 2013. These bridges cross over Canoe Creek and SR 4005 (Tippecanoe Road) in Beaver Township, Clarion County. Combined, they will carry an estimated average of 30,119 vehicles per day by 2025. About 50 percent of the traffic over these bridges is truck traffic.

Visit PennDOT’s website here regarding potential funding solutions for Pennsylvania’s roadways.

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