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Court permanently blocks PennDOT's plan to toll 9 bridges

Court permanently blocks PennDOT plan to toll 9 bridges
Court permanently blocks PennDOT plan to toll 9 bridges 01:57

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — A state court on Thursday permanently blocked Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to toll as many as nine major bridges on interstates in Pennsylvania, siding with three Pittsburgh-area municipalities that argued that his administration had violated procedures in getting to the advanced stage of considering the idea.

A panel of Commonwealth Court judges granted the municipalities' request to effectively declare the plan dead because Wolf's Department of Transportation had not followed the law.

"We're thrilled. This couldn't have been a better outcome for the township and for our residents here," said Gwen A. Rodi, president of the South Fayette Township board of commissioners. 

One key element on which the court agreed with the municipalities is the claim that PennDOT was required to propose specific bridges to toll when it asked the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board in 2020 for permission to move forward with a bridge-tolling plan. It did not.

As a result, parties potentially affected by a tolling project — such as a municipality — had no opportunity to meaningfully give input to the process before the board's decision, the court said.

"The lawsuit was the only way to get it stopped, short of PennDOT pulling the project and they weren't they weren't going to do that," Rodi said.

A Commonwealth Court judge in a separate case in May had imposed a temporary injunction on the tolling projects.

Wolf's push for tolling comes as states increasingly look to user fees to make up for declining gas tax revenue that is not keeping up with the demands of fixing highways and bridges.

It also comes amid rising gas prices and spurred opposition from some communities and Republican lawmakers. Wolf himself only has eight months left in office, and neither of his potential successors in November's election support it.

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