– The House Transportation Committee today held a public hearing on PennDOT’s transportation funding plan that includes using the public-private partnership bridge program to unnecessarily target certain areas of the Commonwealth by creating toll bridges, said Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny).
In February, at the governor’s direction, PennDOT unveiled plans to toll nine bridges throughout the Commonwealth, including the I-79 bridge near the Bridgeville exit. Since the announcement, many questions and concerns have been raised about the specific bridges chosen, safety issues, timing of construction and tolling, and economic impact. Wolf has remained silent on these concerns.
In response to today’s hearing, Ortitay issued the following statement:
“Today we heard from Yassmin Gramian, secretary of PennDOT, who again changed her story on the need for the bridge tolling plan. It seems every time the subject comes up, she has a new excuse why this is the only solution. Now that Congress is on the verge of acting on a federal infrastructure plan, she says the new federal money won’t be enough. PennDOT has become an insatiable department that cannot ever have enough money.
“Thank you to South Fayette Township Manager John M. Barrett for traveling to Harrisburg to advocate on this important issue. As he pointed out, the I-79 bridge is not at the end of its life expectancy, which is one of the few criteria the secretary said was used to choose the nine bridges. I believe it was only chosen because the bridge was listed on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) list to add a third lane. I hope the Wolf administration was listening. He clearly explained why this is a bad plan.
“Furthermore, today the secretary testified that the bridge toll would be $1-2 for E-ZPass users driving cars. Previously, the department said automobile drivers would pay that amount with no specification that the rate only applied to E-ZPass users. No information was provided about the cost for those without E-ZPass. Based on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, E-ZPass users are charged up to 60% less in tolls. In addition, under questioning, PennDOT officials said they were looking at charging truck drivers four to six times the automobile toll rate. This cost inevitably will be passed onto consumers in increased prices for goods and services.
“I remain committed to fighting this plan. The I-79 bridge in my district does not even need the amount of work PennDOT claims it does to justify this tax on the businesses, residents and commuters who travel through my district. It’s time for the governor and PennDOT secretary to come to the table to have an honest conversation about transportation funding and needs throughout the Commonwealth and abandon this unpopular, ill-conceived plan.”
The 46th Legislative District includes Collier and South Fayette townships and Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Canton, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith townships and Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway boroughs in Washington County.