— The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court today ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by Bridgeville Borough and South Fayette and Collier townships against PennDOT, finding the agency has no authority to implement its plan to toll nine bridges across the Commonwealth. Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny), who has spearheaded the fight against the tolling plan, issued the following statement:
“It is with gratitude and great relief to hear the court ruled in our favor. Listening to the arguments in court in May, it was clear PennDOT violated the Public-Private Partnerships (P3) law and doesn’t have a leg to stand on pushing this boondoggle. The state could have saved a lot of time, millions of dollars and energy if the Wolf administration had just played by the rules to begin with and followed the law.
“I realize that PennDOT rarely listens to anyone in the Legislature, but I urge it to not appeal this ruling, which will cost the Commonwealth’s taxpayers more money and waste the court’s time. Instead, the agency 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. Vehicles have changed. Travel habits have changed. We cannot continue to do the same things and expect a different result. Let’s work together and come up with a solution.
“I’d like to thank legislators and other local elected officials for filing lawsuits across the state challenging this tolling proposal. South Fayette Township should be commended for stepping up and filing the original lawsuit. I am very grateful to their elected officials and staff for their willingness to see this through to the end, specifically Commissioner Gwen Rodi for acting quickly. In addition, John Smith and Jen Schiavoni of Smith Butz LLC deserve praise for their thoughtful filings and arguments that helped bring this ruling to fruition. It’s just a shame that one of the local governments I represent had to bear the financial cost to challenge this clear violation of the law. The township and the residents are the real heroes of this story and deserve the credit for stopping this disastrous plan.”
In November 2020, the 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. Bridgeville Borough and South Fayette and Collier townships filed suit in November 2021 demanding PennDOT be stopped as it violated this law as the board did not do its assessment. Earlier this year, attorneys for the three municipalities assisted Cumberland County and several municipalities in southcentral Pennsylvania to file a similar lawsuit related to the I-83 bridge in Harrisburg. In March 2022, PennDOT hired a foreign company to be the lead contractor on the tolling projects. On May 18, Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler issued a preliminary injunction in the Cumberland County suit ordering PennDOT to stop all work on its tolling plan until the entire court could rule.
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.