WASHINGTON (KDKA) - A local congressman says if PennDOT goes ahead with tolling certain bridges on the interstate highways, the federal government should withhold federal funding for that interstate. Other officials think that goes too far.
U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Peters Republican, says he knows how to stop PennDOT's plan to let private companies toll certain bridges: cut off the check PennDOT gets from the feds.
"If they tolled a road or bridge that is not currently tolled, they wouldn't get federal funds for those roads or bridges," Reschenthaler told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
At a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, Reschenthaler offered an amendment to do just that, arguing Pennsylvania has plenty of money to spend without tolling.
"PennDOT's tolling is especially egregious because Pennsylvania has a current $10 billion surplus," Reschenthaler told his committee colleagues.
The Republican's amendment was voted down by a party-line vote with U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Scranton Democrat, voting no, saying it went too far.
"Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Cartwright.
Cartwright, who opposes most tolls, wants to toll Interstate 80 at the Ohio border because out-of-state truckers and drivers pay nothing to maintain the interstate in Pennsylvania.
"They beat the daylights out of that road. Every summer there has to be construction and repair of that road," says Cartwright.
Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Ortitay, the South Fayette Republican who represents the I-79 bridge to be tolled, praised Reschenthaler but worries about loss of federal money.
PennDOT gets about $2 billion a year from the feds.
"We don't want to lose any federal funding for our road system because then everyone suffers, but at the end of the day, you need to make a point," says Ortitay.
Withholding federal money does send a message.
On I-79 in Allegheny County alone, there's a $42 million federal project to repair the Neville Island Bridge and another $40 million in the works to upgrade I-79 in the North Hills.
Reschenthaler says he hasn't given up fighting against the proposed tolls.
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