BRIDGEVILLE – Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) today announced his support for a lawsuit that was filed today against PennDOT requesting an immediate halt to the agency’s plan to include the I-79 bridge near the Bridgeville exit on the list of nine bridges throughout the Commonwealth it plans to toll under the public-private partnership bridge program.
In February, at the governor’s direction, PennDOT unveiled its specific bridge tolling plan. Since the announcement, many questions and concerns have been raised about the bridges chosen, safety issues, timing of construction and tolling, and economic impact.
“While I have been advised that I do not have legal standing to join this lawsuit, I assisted South Fayette, Collier and Bridgeville in bringing this legal action and appreciate their hard work in making this a reality,” Ortitay said. “As I have said from the start, the inclusion of this bridge makes no sense. This bridge is nowhere near the end of its life span. Instead, there are plans to add a third lane. While this addition would improve traffic flow, there is no danger that needs addressed immediately and certainly not with this tolling proposal. It was added based on convenience and met the traffic volume needed to sustain its wildly unpopular tolling proposal.
“Furthermore, the process used by PennDOT’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Board to choose the bridges is flawed. The board voted last November to put tolls on interstate bridges but did not name the specific ones. Three months later PennDOT announced its list. According to Act 88 of 2012, this is against the law. The law states that the board must assess each project’s scope, framework and impact on citizens and do a cost/benefit analysis before approving the project. None of this was done.
“PennDOT continues to insist it has a multi-billion dollar funding shortfall, yet it never provided a comprehensive list of projects that make up that shortfall. We shouldn't just take the agency’s word for it. And, the department has never provided a list of accurate bridge condition assessments, rather the agency continues to rely on a low-tech visual inspection process which was discredited as ‘subjective’ and ‘highly variable’ in a Federal Highway Administration study published 20 years ago. Further, the department has not produced a schedule of major repairs/replacements based on an objective and more accurate assessment of actual bridge condition, including local bridges with load restrictions. Where is the strategic plan? What goals is PennDOT looking to achieve? PennDOT has never answered these questions.
“In addition, PennDOT has not attempted to implement cost-saving measures such as routinely utilizing proven advanced condition assessment technologies in a programmatic manner to safely defer projects by objectively determining bridge structural integrity and remaining safe life span. Not once has the department brought up the billions of dollars in projects on the secretary’s SPIKE Fund list that are done at the discretion of the secretary. Instead, PennDOT’s response to every problem in this administration is to take more and more money from the people of this Commonwealth, rather than routinely utilize the most effective and proven condition assessment technologies to safely defer major, and often unnecessary, expenditures.
“Finally, last week Congress passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that is expected to result in $4 billion in new federal highway and bridge funding for Pennsylvania. This significant investment should have ended PennDOT’s tolling plan immediately. To say that I am disappointed at PennDOT’s refusal to drop this ludicrous proposal would be an understatement. The Wolf administration views the taxpayers of this state as a never-ending source of revenue to do whatever it wants. This tolling plan will only cause further deterioration of local roads and drive-up costs for everything. I hope the court rules in the plaintiffs’ favor.”
The lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court on Thursday, Nov. 11.
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.
Representative Jason Ortitay
46th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tracy Polovick