New FAST Act Pilot Could Let PA Collect I-80 Toll Revenue

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The new FAST Act transportation funding bill signed by President Obama contains a pilot allowing up to three states to toll their interstates, so it’s time for the Wolf administration to resubmit our request to toll I-80.

From Governing Magazine:

Federal law generally prohibits states from adding tolls to existing interstates. The proposal would extend a pilot program that lets as many as three states toll existing interstates, even though the three states with permission — Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia — have no plans to do so. The agreement, though, would add a three-year deadline for states to use their authority to toll interstates, or else that permission could be given to another state instead.

The prohibition against tolling interstates is dumb. The original infrastructure is paid for, but the need for more maintenance funding will only keep growing, and the amount of money raised by user fees has been shrinking.

Act 89 is going to raise a lot of money from gas taxes, but a lot isn’t the same as enough, and more revenue is needed to bring PA’s infrastructure into a state of good repair. The state’s transit agencies in particular are still just treading water with the new funding, despite real needs and opportunities for expansion, especially in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh where more people have been trading in their cars for walkable central neighborhoods.

Tolling I-80 can bring in another $450 million for transportation. We’ve got a proposal ready to send back to the feds. Let’s not leave that money on the table.


This entry was posted in Miscellany.

4 Responses to New FAST Act Pilot Could Let PA Collect I-80 Toll Revenue

  1. What is your proof that the actual cost to PA, or any other state with an Interstate road, is greater than the 4R funding received and the benefit of having the road itself? Given the decades long example of how well the Turnpike Commission has worked I wouldn’t be giving them anything.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I don’t know if it is, but I don’t know why that would be the standard for tolling it. The issue is that we need more transportation money, and user fees are a good clean way to raise the money.

  2. Unlike the Turnpike, Interstates were only slightly funded by the states, usually about 10%. The interstates aren’t owned by the state they are federal and it would be the same as if the state tried to impose an entrance fee on a national park. Just because, in theory, you can tax it doesn’t mean you should or that it is a good idea.

    4R Funding and benefit totals would be the standard to see if there is any cost associated with having the Interstate above the funding levels. If there isn’t then a toll is just a nuisance on the public because it has little to nothing to do with the what they are paying for.

    Also, if it is tolled, what guarantees are there that 4R funding won’t be reduced a like amount since the state could cover more of the costs? Your rush to increase taxes “just because” is not very well thought out. If the same effort was put into increasing efficiencies and cost reduction we’d be better off than looking how to increase the burden on the taxpayer.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      We agree about efficiencies, but there was no appetite for that during the Act 89 debate. The Rendell administration had a smart “Fix It First” policy where no new road capacity would be added until the whole system was broad into a state of good repair. The Corbett administration threw that policy out the window, and now you see a bunch of wasteful highway widening boondoggles coming back from the dead now that there’s a revenue source. I would pair this new I-80 money with a return to Fix It First.