The Federal Highway Administration again has denied Pennsylvania’s request to allow tolls on its 311-mile stretch of Interstate-80, a move that the state says will cost it about $460 million a year in projected revenue for roads and transit.
After FHWA’s April 6 decision, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell (D) said he will call a special session of the legislature to address how to deal with the loss of the hoped-for transportation funds.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “We based [the] decision on what is allowable under federal law.”
FHWA said that under a federal Interstate highway pilot program, revenue gained from the new tolls on a particular Interstate can only be used for improvements to that highway and not for other transportation projects in the state.
Pennsylvania enacted a law in 2007 calliing for tolls on I-80 and for obtaining additional revenue from the already tolled Pennsylvania Turnpike. Those moves would provide $532 million annually for highway and bridge reconstruction and for public-transit uses. The tolling required federal approval, however.
If it cannot impose tolls on I-80, the state estimates the annual revenue loss at $300 million for highways and bridges and $160 million for transit.
Rendell said, "The people of Pennsylvania understand there is no free ride....People understand that if they want safe bridges, good roads and [have] potholes eliminated, you cannot wait for the pothole fairy to do it--you've got to pay for it."
FHWA also had turned down Pennsylvania's I-80 toll proposal once before, in September 2008.