Thompson Says PennDOT, Wolf Need To Find Alternatives To Tolls
Congressman Glenn Thompson is looking for a way to build bridges on Interstate 80 without placing tolls on them.
In March, PennDOT released a plan to toll nine high impact bridges on several interstate highways, including four on I-80. The plan, part of the state's "Pathways Program", includes the I-80 bridges over Canoe Creek in Clarion County and the North Fork bridges in Jefferson County.
"I was successful in defeating Gov. (Ed) Rendell's plan to toll the entire I-80 corridor in 2009," said Thompson. "They (PennDOT) have found some wriggle room within the code that allows them to impose a toll if they tear down and rebuild a bridge. I think that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should," he added.
The bridges in both Clarion and Jefferson counties are slated for replacement.
"There is an opportunity to move forward with this without tolls," said Thompson. "The governor is sitting on billions of dollars of COVID money. The money is there. Even during COVID the state received millions of dollars of unanticipated tax revenue."
"Why not take some of that windfall and fund the state police out of those funds and not the gasoline tax? Use that money from the general fund to pay for these bridges," Thompson said. "There are some viable solutions out there. That would mean PennDOT and the governor would need to think outside the box."
Thompson said the original federal infrastructure bill was a "bad bill", but there was a pot of money available for the bridge projects.
Thompson said he isn't aware of any request by the state to earmark federal funds for the I-80 bridge projects.
"I only have two of the nine bridges. I can't speak for the other areas," he said.
Thompson said he had received some feedback from PennDOT but he has more questions. And he believes tolling will have a negative impact on the area's economy.
"It is ridiculous. When you tax something you repress it," Thompson said. "That is our main thoroughfare for moving commerce. There is nothing we consume that is not transported by truck. Those trucks pay a fortune in taxes to the state of Pennsylvania."
Thompson said the tolling would also create a "trickle down" effect.
"When you lose jobs you lose businesses and property tax and that impacts our school districts," he said.
There are also safety issues, according to Thompson.
"The truckers can't afford to absorb the tolls and they will look for alternative routes like Route 322 and township roads. You will then have heavy equipment running on roads that were not designed for them," Thompson said. "The wear and tear will cost the townships and boroughs...they have very few resources to rebuild the roads."
"We need to reach a bipartisan agreement," said Thompson. "I will continue to work toward an agreement."